26 Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 30, 2018
It’s unclear why Eldad and Medad, the two men named in the First Reading (Numbers 11:25-30) were not invited to join the 68 others who accompanied Moses to a special encounter with God. The only thing the passage tells us is that they had been “left behind in the camp.”
Left behind! Could that be a clue? Is it possible that they were intentionally excluded?
We learn to be selective about who we associate with at a very early age. It’s a skill we develop, often beginning on the playground, when kids are organized into sports teams. It continues throughout our lives. The opportunities to evaluate one another, to see if people measure up to our own personal set of standards, and to exclude those who don’t, are countless. We do it all the time. So, just possibly, Eldad and Medad were “left behind in the camp” because their peers, for whatever reason, decided that they didn’t pass muster. Did the “others” think these two weren’t good enough?
There are some Scripture scholars who argue just the opposite. The clue they base their theory on are the names: Eldad and Medad. Not exactly two handles you would want to burden your child with…until you learn what those two Hebrew names mean. Loosely translated, Eldad means whom God loves and Medad means loved. So, this theory holds that the two excluded themselves because they considered themselves unworthy or unfit to be in God’s presence. Seeing and admiring their humility, God gifted them with the same powers as the other 68 who presented themselves for a more formal commissioning.
Whether they were intentionally excluded or graciously excused themselves is a matter for discussion and debate. What we do know with certainty is their names. Unlike the identity of the 68, which is lost to history, the names Eldad and Medad are recorded in the Old Testament, remembered and discussed thousands of years after their work was done. That is significant, in and of itself.
The second thing we know with certainty about these two is that they were empowered with the Spirit of The Almighty…even though they were “left behind in the camp.”
This Reading pairs nicely with the Gospel, where we see one group hoping to exclude and disempower another group simply because they aren’t part of “the inner circle.” The disciples totally ignored the good works being done in Jesus’s Name. Why? Because they were protecting the “in crowd” from intruders.
And why were these imposters doing “the work” without being official disciples? Could it be they did not think they were worthy to seek admission to The Lord’s inner circle? Or did they apply and were denied? We aren’t given the details. We are left to reflect and discuss and debate.
What are we supposed to learn from all of this?
Could the answer possibly be that God does not demand that people have a special credential or a license to do good things? It’s all about the work…not about who’s doing it. OR…maybe the lesson to be learned here is that God rewards the humble. That would be consistent with the powerful teaching on discipleship we heard last Sunday: if anyone wishes to be first, they shall be last of all and servant of all.
I wonder if it’s as simple as this: whether we are in or out…“left behind in the camp” or invited to accompany the important people…we are all Eldad and Medad…much loved children of an all-loving God. And we are all empowered by the Holy Spirit to do good things in God’s Name…especially to drive out evil. No further discussion or debate is necessary on that. God loves us all.