“A prophet is not without honor except in (their) native place and among (their) own kin and in (their) own house.” Mark 6:4.
Hearing this verse reminds me of my own life story, and how I became a chaplain. It took me a while to confidently wear the bright blue chaplain name badge. And at first, I felt that I needed to moderate my title, saying: I am a lay chaplain which means I offer empathic listening, grief support, and call the priest when a person is in need of the sacraments.
However, with time and confidence I have come to realize that some people don’t need to hear my anxious qualifiers. Some people even accept me prior to even knowing my story and I believe it is because the Spirit calls me to be with others, in their moment of profound need, regardless of any of my own uncertainty. The Spirit equips each of us with what we need.
In one of the lectionary passages for today, the Spirit entered into Ezekiel and moved him to action. That very same Spirit, who is present in the Church, and creatively unfolding itself to all people, renewing and transforming the church and giving courage to all its people.
This same kind of courage can be seen in Bishop Mathew Clark's pastoral letter “The Fire in the Thornbush.” Clark says:
“It is entirely possible that the Spirit of God is even now granting the church at large and our local church true prophets, men and women through whom the Spirit of God will inspire and renew us. No one of us can claim on personal authority that he or she does not possess this gift of prophecy nor can any one of us claim from God’s hand this extraordinary power. But all of us bishops and housewife, priest and lay person, monk and religious woman-- can and must be open to [its] advent among us.”
So when you are misunderstood just like Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth, and when you are asked, where does your authority come from? What will be your response?
For me, I have found my authority comes from the call. That just as the Spirit entered Ezekiel, so too has the spirit entered me and, I believe, enters each of you through the Sacrament of Baptism. In Baptism you were marked by the Spirit and anointed with oil as a sign of consecration to God.
By being anointed you join with Christ in the three-fold mission of prophet, priest, and king. This means that as a prophet you are a messenger sent by God to speak the word to the world. In a similar way to the major prophet Ezekiel, you are tasked with sharing the word of God to all people, even those that have predetermined that they will not hear the message because of the messenger’s gender, sexuality, age, race, or even personal faith.
God reminds Ezikiel, and each of us, that others may reject a prophet’s word or ability to prophesy even though the Spirit has called and ordained them. I believe through the passage of Ezikiel and Mark chapter 6 God is showing that our efforts and our intention matter, that our faithfulness to answering God’s call is what truly matters. And above all our presence speaks loudly of the active mystery of the Spirit moving and drawing its people closer and closer to God.
The second commission from the baptismal vow is the call to be priest or priestess. Essentially the call is to be a mediator between God and human beings. In Genesis 2 Eve, made from the side of Adam, showing equality with Adam was made to serve and care for the garden. Therefore, having authority with the world.
This commission to serve and guard creation has a pastoral ring to it, hence we are called to be pastoral serving one another.
The third and final commission is the call to be king or queen. Adam and Eve who were first ordained, first crowned, to have dominion with all creation meaning to serve others well. For us today this could mean justly exercising loving authority as a parent, campus minister, teacher, police officer, coach, or mentor.
As baptized Christians living out diverse roles in the world we are supposed to be kings and queens over ourselves, over our thoughts, over our intentions, and our hearts. And through Jesus’ coming we were given power and authority over ourselves through the Sacraments - freeing us from sin and showing ways to reintegrate with creation and our communities.
God has shown us through Ezekiel and Mark chapter 6 that one's presence speaks to realities that cannot be ignored. Meaning that by being fully present and as you were created, you are loudly proclaiming the freedom, creativity, and the work of the Spirit.
On this 4th of July let us show gratitude and remember those that act or have acted as mediators or priests and priestess for social justice, security, an end to war, and have offered health care amidst the pandemic. Let us remember those that gave their life, career, and service for a greater cause, for freedom, hope, and health or wellbeing.
Let us honor the intentions and prayers offered through the USCCB Religious Freedom Week, an international campaign that invites all to prayerfully reflect and act in ways of solidarity that promote religious freedom for the church and all religious communities so that their faith may be lived out in generosity and witnessed publicly.
As we go forth into the world as church, let us remember our baptismal call and the three-fold mission of prophet, priestesses or priest, and king or queen. Remembering that we are not responsible for the response of our ministry or how others will perceive our ministry, but rather we are held responsible for our own faithfulness in carrying out God’s call to minister to all living things.
Go freely in peace and love and may the Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us.
Emily Southerton is a member of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) and recently completed her board certification. She is a chaplain at Phoebe Ministry where she provides spiritually themed small groups, funeral services, and leads monthly worship services for seniors. She has a BA in Theology and Philosophy (Aquinas College) and an MA in Theology and Pastoral Ministry (Villanova University).
Elders living with Dementia are spiritually active. In August 2022, Emily presented a workshop at NACC on the value and importance of using "Montessori like '' methods in spiritual care for individuals living with Dementia. In October 2022, she presented a webinar for NAJC sharing the importance of "Entering Their Story (Dementia Residents): Interacting with Scripture Through Experiential Methods". Emily finds value and meaning in leading Spirit Alive© workshops and offering training for CCRCs (continuing care retirement communities) that partner with Phoebe Ministries to receive Dementia specialized resources and training.
To put it mildly, Emily perceives the imperative need to deepen the conversations relating to lay involvement at all levels of the Catholic church. In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, Emily presented a research paper articulating questions and probing critical thought on "the missed opportunities" for the church to partner with trained Catholic (lay) chaplains present in various medical care context to assist in administering the sacrament of anointing amidst the strict CMS and CDC strict guidelines. She highlighted that (in extenuating circumstances) the sacrament of baptism can be conferred by lay Catholics. And noted that in extenuating circumstances (the pandemic) several if not many patients and residents in hospital settings or continuing care facilities were not offered the sacrament of anointing prior to death due to the potential of exposing clergy to sickness. This paper Emily presented at Notre Dame's fall conference "'I Have Called You by Name:' Human Dignity in a Secular World"
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