We all know that Moses was filled with the Spirit of the Lord, but today’s first reading tells us that God took the Spirit and shared it with seventy-two elders of Israel. Unfortunately, two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, were not with everyone else when this happened.
But that didn’t stop God. To everyone’s surprise, the Spirit fell upon Eldad and Medad, even though they were not at the “ordination.” Hearing the news, Moses declared, “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!” (Numbers 11:29).
There is a similar story in today’s Gospel. John told Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him” because “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38, 39, 40). In both of these stories, people were harshly judging someone who was trying to do God’s will but who didn’t fit into their expectations.
Today, we still believe that the Spirit falls on everyone who is baptized and accepts Jesus in faith. As Peter said, “The promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off” (Acts 2:39). Those who are “far off” includes us. Like Moses and the elders, the apostles, and the man John condemned, we too have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We too are meant to be prophets.
Being a prophet doesn’t mean shouting in the desert like John the Baptist did. A prophet is someone who brings Jesus and his words to the world. That’s our job. Jesus is asking us to tell people how wonderful he is. He is asking us to proclaim his mercy, his goodness, and his salvation. If Moses were here, he’d tell us, “By the power of the Holy Spirit, you are a prophet. So get out there and proclaim God’s word to a hurting world.”