Sunday Reflection by Rev. Edward M. Riley, Dean of Men, Director of Pastoral Formation - 9/26/2021
“Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!” Such is the proclamation we hear from the Prophet Moses in the First Reading of today’s Mass from the Book of Numbers. Words likely uttered with great irritation that for so long he alone has born the burden of leading God’s Chosen People for some time before the seventy elders receive from LORD Himself a portion of the spirit originally poured out upon Moses, so they too can assist in leading the People.
The gift of the Holy Spirit given to the seventy elders in the Old Testament is reminiscent of what we hear later in the New Testament in the Acts of the Apostles when the Twelve, Mary the Mother of Jesus, other women, and some 120 persons in total receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, when they not only begin to prophecy but speak in tongues and many different languages. So amazing is the work of the LORD!
Prophecy is not mere "human predictions" of future events but rather the Divine Word of God spoken through a person chosen by God. In the Old and New Testaments, we have many great prophets. And although we might not have 120 seminarians walking around prophesying here at Saint John’s Seminary we do have very good men spending great amounts of time in prayer each day before the LORD, most often in personal prayer when they can listen more deeply to the WORD of GOD and let It resonate within their hearts and minds.
Although Lectio Divina – a reflective reading of the Sacred Scriptures – has a centuries long history in the Church and has been a rich spiritual practice taught to seminarians here at Saint John’s for many years, today a good number of seminarians have more recently gathered into small fraternal groups where they can "break open" the Sacred Scriptures together, sharing what the WORD means to them in their lives. This beautiful spiritual exercise has greatly bonded them in fraternal friendships which will last for many, many years in their future priesthood.
In today’s Gospel account from the Evangelist Saint Mark, Jesus’s own words echo those of the great Old Testament Prophet Moses, when he tells his own disciples not to be concerned that others are performing miracles in his Name, that those who drive out demons and miraculously heal others are doing the work of GOD, His Father. And truth behold, even today Jesus wants more of us doing this too. He wants all of us to be prophets, even healing others and driving out demons. All done in the Name of Jesus! So amazing is the work of the LORD!
And for this great work to take place at Saint John’s Seminary, seminarians preparing for the priesthood daily allow themselves to be vulnerable to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In fact, the Church documents remind us how important is this openness to the work of the Holy Spirit since “the principal agent of priestly formation is the Most Holy Trinity, who shapes every seminarian according to the plan of the Father, both through the presence of Christ in His word, in the sacraments and in the brothers and sisters of the community, and through the many actions of the Holy Spirit” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, “I Will Give You Shepherds,” n. 65). So amazing is the work of the LORD!