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Rely on the Holy Spirit as your gatekeeper

Readings for March 16-17, Fifth Sunday of Lent

By Lyn Zahorik | For On Mission

Scripture recounts that as Jesus was going around teaching, some Greeks wanted to see him. However, they did not approach Jesus directly, but rather asked Philip, who then went to Andrew. These two disciples were taking on the role of a gatekeeper to Jesus.

In ancient times, the gatekeeper was a prominent position. That person played a crucial role in protecting and guiding others. He determined who could enter and leave the premises and would question strangers before allowing them to pass through the gates.

Our church today still relies on gatekeepers. Our Holy Father, bishops and theologians may be considered gatekeepers since they guard doctrinal truth and only allow sound teaching to influence the church. We trust in them to be people who have a personal relationship with God, and are trustworthy, wise, prayerful and reliant on the Holy Spirit.

In our personal life, we, too, rely on the Holy Spirit to be our personal gatekeeper, guiding our minds, bodies and souls in ways of vigilance, discernment and prayer to protect our temporal and spiritual well-being.

Six of our seven sacraments employ gatekeepers. People must pass through a specific time of preparation and prayer before receiving the sacrament. Many of us are witness to the catechumens or candidates in our parish who are part of the OCIA (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults) and have undergone weeks of preparation and formation, which will be leading them to the Easter sacraments.

Understandably, the need for checks and balances and a certain level of experience and spiritual gifts is necessary to maintain a healthy and holy environment within our churches.

However, detrimental gatekeeping can happen within our church walls, and it becomes a hindrance to people seeking to meet Jesus. It is possible to be so convinced of our personal beliefs and understanding of the church that we desire to keep others out.

Some hindering gatekeeping thoughts include: the homeless man sitting in the back pew of church makes me uncomfortable; the young mother with the crying baby should have stayed home; that teen who comes to Mass in a T-shirt and shorts is not appropriately dressed to be in this holy place; the person who is “just a …” really has no business serving on parish council; or Father never preaches about … so he is a poor spiritual leader. 

This type of gatekeeping misses the fact that God has imbued each person with different traits, spiritual gifts and ways of seeing the world. More importantly, God has called us to go forth and live the Gospel — not to stand in judgment of who is worthy to hear his words or know the grace of his compassion.

This Sunday’s Gospel does not tell us if the Greeks got to speak with Jesus that day. However, let us assume they were filled with the desire expressed in the Psalm for this Sunday, “Cast me not out from your presence, and take not you Holy Spirit from me” and Jesus responded. 

In our time as well, Jesus the Gatekeeper, invites us to enter communion with him and enjoy his protection, provision and presence.

Zahorik is director for spiritual engagement at St. Mary Parish, Omro, and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne.

The readings for Sunday, March 17, can be found at Fifth Sunday of Lent.

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