Discernment and Leadership: Tuning into the Wisdom of Gamaliel

Before the Sanhedrin

Before the Sanhedrin

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” –Gamaliel, respected teacher of the law,  before the Sanhedrin Acts 5: 38-39

How do we discern whether our endeavors are of God’s will, or purely of our own human making and inclination? How are we to tease apart the roots of our intentions in engaging in any activity, or trust those intentions of others’? It’s messy stuff, I believe!

These words from Friday’s scripture give me pause this week, as I consider their context, and weigh their present possible applications in our church and world.

“How do we tune into what is of God’s good pleasure, and like the apostles in this reading, hold fast in our faith and living out Christ’s mission?”

Here are the apostles standing before the Sanhedrin, being judged for their efforts in proclaiming and living the Good News. A wise Pharisee and teacher among them named Gamaliel has the wherewithal to pause, and counsel his peers who seemingly have the power to destroy and/ or disband the apostles altogether. He invites the Sanhedrin to be careful and consider what they are judging and how they may choose to act. Gamaliel offers examples of previous prophetic agents whose efforts died with the Sanhedrin’s sanctions, and utters these true words cited above about the origin of each agent’s mission. Re-stated: “If the activity and mission is of God –divinely ordained — it shall flourish. If not, the endeavor shall die.”

In my vocations ministry with discerning individuals who are trying to lean into God’s call, and live His love, this scripture holds much power and weight. I think of the four young women from NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries who came this week to pray and be among the sisters for a short window of time, and tune into the vocational narratives of a number of the community who have and are discerning God’s will for their lives. How do they, and we alike, tune into what is of God’s good pleasure, and like the apostles in this reading, hold fast in our faith and living out Christ’s mission?

I think of all women religious in the United States, whose leadership has been put on notice as the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) appoints a team of bishops to oversee the reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). (USCCB, April 18, 2012.) I long for Gamaliel’s voice in reviewing the claims about women religious and their work. And simultaneously, my heart is filled with gratitude for the possibilities of this review process over the next five years.

I pose questions and I pray….

  • How are the apostles from 2000 years ago alive and at work in this day and age?
  • What Good News are we proclaiming with full voice?
  • How is God’s will present in all facets of our lives and in all charged or messy circumstances?
  • As faithful, faith-filled beings, how are each of us before a present day assembly of the Sanhedrin?
  • What roles are we each called to fill or claim?
  • Where is Gamaliel? Can we recognize Judas the Galilean, whose efforts amounted to naught?
  • Who among us will be flogged, but persist in our appointed goals and missions?
  • How will God himself be fought with?
  • How can we give God thanks for all of this activity and the guidance to move through it in a transformational, inspiring, life-giving manner?

I pray.

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