There is a story that many are familiar with that has been made into a popular musical, West Side Story. In this story there are two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, that are caught up in a vicious cycle of hatred and violence. The members of these gangs lived dark and desperate lives with very little hope for the future. The world for them was threatening and dangerous and one could only survive by staying close to other members of the gang. The only thing that was important for these gang members was being a part of the gang and defending their territory. One member of the Jets gets a sense that there is something more for him in life than this small and limited existence. Tony begins to transcend the gang mentality and knows that he is capable of something greater, more wonderful and infinitely more fulfilling. Eventually Tony falls in love with Maria, the sister of a rival gang leader, and is transformed by love to see the world in a whole new way. He now seeks to be a mediator of peace and to bring the two gangs together. He sees the possibility of all people living together as brothers and sisters in peace. His efforts fail in the world of the streets but he and Maria affirm that there is a place “Somewhere” where they could realize their dream of unity, love and peace and transcend the limited world of fear, hatred, violence and competition that divides people.
This “Somewhere” exists in the Kingdom of God. God desires that the world be transformed by the Spirit of love that he pours out on his people. He calls his people to transcend the limitations of their human struggles with disordered, interior passions such as pride, greed, selfishness, lust, sloth, hatred, violence and other evil thoughts and dispositions and begin to live a new life of holiness and goodness. God pours out the grace of his Spirit and offers a share in his divine life as gifts to strengthen his people to live a life that transcends sin, divisions, evil and death. When one receives the gift of the Spirit of God then one is able to “prophesy”, to view the world and existence in a new way, to see with the eyes of God’s Spirit and discern the truth, to apply God’s law and order to our human lives, to recognize the good and choose the good, to suffer if necessary to bring about the good and to truly in all ways walk in the way of wisdom. When one is filled with the Spirit of God there is a joyfulness and ecstasy that flows through that person.
Today we see in the first reading that God pours a portion of the Spirit that has been given to Moses on Eldad and Medad who are in the camp and not gathered with the other elders who have been selected to help Moses in his leadership in the community. Joshua objects to the fact that Eldad and Medad are prophesying apart from the others. Moses responds, “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” God wishes all of his people to be prophets and live a prophetic witness in our world today. He is willing to share the grace of his Spirit with all people so that they have the strength to live that witness. God wants that his people might be a “kingdom of priests” who could offer continuous sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. The requirement to receive a portion of the Spirit that has been given to Moses is not membership in some exclusive group but rather a desire and effort to live a holy life. God would like for all of the people of Israel to live that holy life. The prophet must transcend the petty bickering, complaints, and longing for the pleasures of Egypt that infect the people and rise to a new way of life with God.
In the gospel we also see one of the apostles, John, complaining to Jesus about someone who did not belong to their group who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ instruction is not to stop him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” Those who have been transformed by love and can be a part of the battle against evil are doing the work of Jesus. If we are being a channel of God’s Spirit and not an obstacle to that Spirit by the way we live then we are doing God’s work. There is a universal call to holiness that is available to all people and God wants all people to become, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We are therefore called to live a new life of holiness, “Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I (am) holy.”” This is the common priesthood that we are all baptized into in Christ. We are all called to share in the priesthood through a life of holiness and be a prophetic witness in the world driving out evil and reestablishing God’s glorious reign.