Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

Sunday BibleTalk: September 23rd, 2018
Sunday BibleTalk with Sunday Video Chat!
Greetings, SBT Readers:

The last line of our first reading is worth noting. Upon learning that Eldad and Medad are prophesying though they were not present when the Spirit of God came to rest upon the 70 elders, Moses says: " Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!" (Nm 11:25-29). Similarly, in today's Gospel, Jesus is unconcerned that someone who is not one of his followers is casting out demons in his name (Mk 9:38-43). Both texts, then, indicate that God's Spirit cannot be limited, controlled or bound by rules. The Spirit blows where it wills and in whatever way it chooses, empowering the least likely among us to speak on God's behalf.

Today, more than ever, we have a need for prophets -- not for fortune tellers or for those who reveal future events but, rather, for those who speak Truth , plead for Justice and demand a change of heart. Prophets cut through lies, flattery and manipulation. They see with God'e eyes, hear with God's ears and speak with God's voice; they not only read between the lines but also the fine print. They issue dire warnings but also hold a vision of hope; they point to the Way when the flock has scattered and the sheepfold is empty.

Well, the flock has scattered and the sheepfold is virtually bare. This may not be true of YOUR parish community, but churches everywhere are standing empty, victims to urban flight, urban decay and decreasing attendance; parishes are merging and magnificent buildings are being condemned to the wrecking ball, causing heartache and anger amongst those who have been displaced. Those who remain have more questions than answers.

"Where are the prophets?" you might ask.

"Where indeed?" asks God.

Many Blessings!


PS Please note that Sunday Chat is an imperfect production, entirely unscripted and therefore prone to some "rough spots" in terms of clarity and expression!


Remembering SBT reader and Living Faith reader, SISTER DOROTHY LYNCH, C.S.J. who went to her heavenly reward on September 12th, 2018. Thank you, Dorothy, for decades of loving support!


"Whoever cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for them if a great millstone
were put around their necks
and they were thrown into the sea."
MK 9: 42

We have lost the children -- generations of children. In my parents' generation and the generations that preceded them, few dared question the authority of the church whether in matters of faith, morals, tradition, liturgical practice, scriptural interpretation etc. Religious education was mostly a matter of memorizing the Catechism and few Catholics actually studied the bible, though they would, of course, have known some of the more familiar bible stories such as Noah's Ark , David and Goliath and the Gospel narratives. Private devotions such as the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, Novenas and Holy Hours abounded, but the idea of developing a unique relationship with God or having a unique call to holiness would have been foreign concepts to the laity -- or so I believe. Going to Mass meant being a spectator rather than a participant, with bells, incense and Latin creating an aura of mystery and remoteness. Religion was a matter of duty, of fulfilling obligations which would save one from hell, reduce the time spent in Purgatory and ensure a heavenly reward. God was the Great Judge who, like the Adult Christ, could be approached only through the intercession of the saints and Mary. It was not until the 1960's and the Second Vatican Council that the laity were called into an adult faith.

We have lost the children -- generations of children. My generation, the Baby Boomers burst onto the scene, with our questions and rebellious spirit. But our teachers had been formed in the pre-Vatican II era and still had a triumphant view of the church as the "one, true ark of salvation." As a seven year old, I was already asking why women couldn't be ordained in the Catholic church; I was also shocked by the pyramid of power my second grade teacher drew on the blackboard, with the pope on the top, married laity on the bottom, and clergy and religious sandwiched in the middle. I asked questions and arrived at my own answers, and by the time I went to university, found that I, like some of my peers, could no longer blindly accept all that the church taught. We wrestled with the notion of papal infallibility and teachings on sexual morality. "What is Truth?" I asked myself. I found guidance in a single quotation which suggested that Truth was a synthesis of the objective and subjective realms. Whether this was an accurate paraphrase of something written by Soren Kirkegaard, the Danish philosopher/theologian, or whether it was a "wishful thinking" distortion of his writing, it helped me place primacy of conscience before all else. I kept the Faith (on my terms) but many left the church over issues of birth control and divorce; some gravitated towards other denominations, while others gave up on religion altogether, raising their own children without a religious framework.

We have lost the children -- generations of children. Gen X is the generation born into a church which had already been de-mystified and racked by the sex-abuse scandal. Many were "raised Catholic" but left the church as soon as they were able; others stayed, but found themselves having to defend their Catholic faith to their peers, while struggling to find nurturing in an institution that often provided more rules than spiritual sustenance. Poor preaching, rote liturgies, and hierarchical cover-ups caused a mass exodus, and, again, the shocked and alienated became the parents of children who would never see the inside of a church or be exposed to the core Catholic spiritual values that have been overshadowed by scandal.

We have lost the children -- generations of children. I work with many Millennials -- I teach them, coach them, provide spiritual direction and also officiate at their weddings. Most, it seems, want to be spiritual without having religious baggage. They believe in committed relationships, often meeting online and then dating 6 years+ before becoming engaged; they tend to be cautious with their finances and career goals, and want to travel and have both dogs and children. "God," however, is a foreign concept. They are suspicious of organized religion and tend to want nothing to do with it -- even if it means disappointing parents and grandparents who may expect some token reference to God in their wedding ceremonies.

We have lost the children -- generations of children. Gen Z? The children of Gen X and/ or Millennials, they are electronically distracted, connecting to one another through virtual reality, having little appreciation for the natural world, for reflection or introspection. They have no understanding of religion, or knowledge of the "sacred stories" that formed their grandparents. Easily bored, they are not interested in spirituality and rely on social media for their friendships, and video games for their entertainment. "God" is a mythical figure much like Zeus or Apollo or any one of the other divinities that might show up in their video games.

We have lost the children -- generations of children. As a church, we need to re-examine our history and assess the needs of the present moment. If, as I suggest, we have become irrelevant as an institution, we must re-examine where we are and where we need to be. How can we extend welcome to the lost, forsaken and alienated? What do they need of us and how can we best serve them?

  1. Who are the Gen X's, Millennials and Gen Z's in your life and how do you relate to them?
  2. If you are a Gen X or Millennial, what keeps you faithful and what do YOU need from the church?
  3. If you are a Baby Boomer or belong to the Great Generation, what can YOU do to reach out to the younger generations in a way that is invitational rather than judgmental?

You can order my book, Mind-Shifting Imagery and Dr. Patrick Williams' book, Getting Naked: On Being Emotionally Transparent at the Right time, the Right Place, and with the Right Person on Amazon.

Introduction to Image Guidance

Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,