January 7, 2017
by Luis Rodriguez
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday After the Epiphany [outside the U.S.]
Lectionary 217

1 John 5:14-21
Psalm 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b
John 3:22-30

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Today’s gospel reading brings my mind to the book of Numbers [1: 26ff]. God offered to give to seventy elders some of the spirit of Moses, who called them to gather around the Tent, although only sixty-eight of them were present. When the Spirit was given, all began to prophesy, including the two who had remained in their tents. At this the young man (presumably Joshua) comes in panic to Moses telling him: Stop them! Moses’ reply was: Would that everyone could prophesy! No jealousy there.

In today’s gospel reading John’s disciples come to him in equal panic, because Jesus is baptizing and people are coming to him. The implicit alarm is: Stop him! John explains calmly that no one can receive anything, except what had been given to him and then, in a jealousy-free gesture he equivalently echoes Moses’ reaction: Would that everyone could baptize!

Religious jealousy can be sterile (totally unproductive) and destructively leading to animosity and negative witness. We have seen too much of that in the Church, though, thank God, not recently. My generation can remember examples: How come they spread the devotion to the rosary, if they are not Dominicans? How come they bless the scapular, if they are not Carmelites? How come they direct the Spiritual Exercises, if they are not Jesuits? Stop them! To which I could only say: Would that everyone could direct the Spiritual Exercises! No one can give anything, except what is given him or her. Thank God, we have today among the laity many people quite well prepared and qualified to offer spiritual direction and to direct retreats.

While working as hospital chaplain, I saw nurses with a genuine concern for the patients’ spiritual well-being. But I was never tempted to “panic”: They are not chaplains. Stop them! I rather felt, not unlike Moses: Would that every staff member had the same genuine concern. Here on campus I see students genuinely concerned about the spiritual welfare of their fellow students, but I have never been tempted to object: Stop them! They are not in Campus Ministry! Well, would that all students – indeed all faculty, administrators and staff– had the same genuine concern.

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