Lectionary Reflection for September 30th 2012: The Mark of Religious Leadership

Lectionary Readings:

  • Numbers 11:25-29. Moses is pleased that the Spirit of prophecy is shared with those not immediately present in the first ordination of elders. He reprimands his jealous aide Joshua.
  • James 5:1-6. Hard words against the wealthy who abused their workers and withheld wages.
  • Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48. Rejoice in everyone who expels demons or works miracles in Jesus’ name, even if “not of our company.” Scandal and bad leadership will be severely punished. We must adamantly cut away whatever stands in the way of the Kingdom of God.

Thoughts for your consideration:

The readings for this week seem to suggest that the Spirit of God cannot be bound by social conventions or structures when it comes to inviting others to share in the ministry of the Gospel. As great leaders both Moses and Jesus recognized and empowered others who take up their ministry. In both cases they find themselves reprimanding their own disciples who wish to limit leadership to their own selective social grouping.

Jesus rejoices in seeing others who are outside of his circle take up this shared ministry. What troubles him is when religious leaders cause scandal through their own bad leadership. Both James in the second reading and Jesus in the Gospel share their concern with regards to those who abuse power. Jesus is concerned that religious leadership can cause others to sin by narrowing their own message and placing social barriers on the salvific message (as John was inclined to do in limiting the ministry of the Gospel to only the disciples.) James looks at the economic abuse of power and identifies the scandal of injustice from the economic elite. Religious leadership that sides with the structure of power and wealth for its own self-aggrandizement is a scandal of the utmost concern to Jesus and the early Christian community. In such circumstances we need to look to the prophets that come up from the margins of society to set us on the right course.

We need to heed this message carefully as we consider the delicate social responsibility we have in promoting the US Bishops’ document “Faithful Citizenship.” The message of God’s liberating salvation is a social message and one that must impact our own political concerns. However we do a grave disservice if we place any social limitations on this message and start appealing to the concerns of those who abuse their social power and economic wealth against the “workers” and “harvesters.” Those who suffer from economic and social exploitation are the righteous ones that the Gospel makes its preferential option with. “Faithful Citizenship” calls us to promote the politics that serves the dignity of all life, especially those whose dignity suffers from these difficult economic times.

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About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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