There is a joke that asks the question, ’why is a round church better than a square church?’ The answer is, ’so no one can corner God.’ That’s what today’s scriptures are all about, the wrongness of our tendency to corner God’s love and truth.
I’ve used this example many times of someone singing the praises of someone else, how good and generous they are and then they blow it by saying, ‘and you know, they’re not even Catholics.’ As if Catholics have a corner on goodness, thoughtfulness and care for others. A young man, probably enthusiastically sincere, complained to Moses that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp and they should be stopped. Moses knows better. Prophecy, the carrying of God’s message of love and peace to the world is not the special task of only a few people. Moses’ wish was that all the people of the Lord were prophets.
We find the same situation in the gospel. John complains to Jesus, “we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop them.” John may have been a bit of a control freak, we’re the only ones who can do the works of Jesus. Jesus sets John straight when he tells him, “do not stop him, for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” God does not confine the gifts of his spirit to authorized channels only. Bishops and priests are not the only channels of God’s truth and love to our world. Scripture tells us that the spirit breathes where it wills, inside and outside the church. Who would doubt that the spirit of God worked in the life and actions of a man like Ghandi?
All truly good works come from and lead back to God. In today’s gospel Jesus is letting us know that anyone doing a good and mighty deed need not have official credentials. The true credential for doing good is our being just who we are, created and loved by a God who is able to work mightily through anyone of us. Perhaps the test for one doing good is God’s inclusiveness. Peter knew this. “Any person of any nationality who does what is right is acceptable to God.” Selectivity or exclusion were not elements in the way Jesus did things. John, who has asked the question about who belongs and who does not, receives an essential teaching concerning the mission of Jesus, all are welcome to do the works of God as God chooses them to do them. All truly good works come from and lead back to God. Not only must God’s truth be spread through all of God’s people; it may also be spread by those who are “not of our company,” those good and wonderful people who are not even Catholics nor Christian.
The fact that many of our young people no longer come to Mass is a sadness. Their Catholic faith seems to have no impact on the way they lives their lives, it has no attraction for them at all.
But consider this, the missionary works of many religious communities could not happen if it were not for so many young women and men of college age and beyond who willingly volunteer one or two or three years of their lives working in the developing countries of the world. Where would we Passionists be without the generous support of our Passionist Volunteers who work with us in Honduras and Jamaica? They embrace the fundamental works of the church; they bring the love, the healing and the reality of God’s love for each of us by serving their brothers and sisters who are less blessed by this world’s blessings. God’s work is their work as the try to bring about Christ’s kingdom of justice, love and truth.
Think of the number of young men and women, many of them estranged from the church who are involved in environmental and ecological issues as they work for the healing of Earth and the integrity of creation. Think of the young men and women still involved in the Occupy Movement protesting the thievery and corruption of the financial institutions that run our lives. The words of St. James are so true in our day when we hear of the manipulation of markets and mortgages and the many Ponzi schemes that preyed on people’s greed, when we hear of golden handshakes given to financial executives who should be receiving jail sentences. “The wages of those who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord.”
Scripture describes the kingdom of God as a kingdom of light and truth, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, light and truth. This is the kingdom whose arrival we pray for every day, the kingdom come. As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for all those good people who work to bring about the kingdom of God on earth, be they inside or outside the camp. And may each of us remember that God’s work must truly be our own.