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Breath of the Spirit

Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.

Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.

One’s determination to carry through on his or her commitment is more powerful than the circumstances in which that commitment is actually lived.



Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
I Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

I recently came upon a unique Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Success in marriage,” the former first lady said, “depends on being able, when you get over being in love, to really love.” I’m certain today’s three sacred authors would have applied that insight to more than just marriage. The fervor with which we start relationships and projects never lasts. The only force which keeps them going is our determination to make them go.

The author of Proverbs, in describing the “worthy wife,” agrees. “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting . . . .”  It’s clear that what might have attracted her husband to her in the beginning isn’t what’s keeping him in the relationship now. Though most modern wives cringe when they hear the “wifely” qualities for which our sacred author praises this special woman – today’s liturgical passage is just a small part of the whole good wife pericope - everyone agrees this is one determined marriage partner. Nothing comes in the way of her dedication to her husband and her family. She’s going to be a faithful wife and mother, come hell or high water, until the day she dies.

Paul expects the same determination from his community in Thessalonica. But he’s not concerned with hell or high water breaking into their lives; he’s more worried about something which didn’t happen: the risen Jesus’ Parousia.

The earliest followers of Jesus never imagined they’d be into this dying/rising stuff for more than a few months, or, at most, a few years. They expected the Christ (Paul’s term for the risen Jesus) to arrive quickly and take his disciples with him to their eternal reward. But, almost 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection – when Paul writes I Thessalonians – that event still hasn’t taken place. Slowly but surely, their faith experience is changing from a short term to a long term experience.

Though in today’s pericope Paul is still encouraging his readers not to give up hope in Jesus’ imminent Parousia, he’s also forced to encourage them to adapt to this unexpected set of circumstances. Just as a married couple is obliged to begin to love after their “in love” period vanishes, so other Christs are obligated to continue to imitate Jesus in their daily lives even after their fervor for his return starts to cool. One’s determination to carry through on his or her commitment is more powerful than the circumstances in which that commitment is actually lived. “Therefore,” the Apostle writes, “let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” Until the in love returns, we’ve got a lot of actual loving to do; until Jesus returns, we’ve got a lot of dying and rising to do.

Perhaps that’s why Matthew, writing more than 40 years after the historical Jesus’ death and resurrection, has his Jesus tell a parable about the talents three servants receive. Those who manage to increase their money are complimented: “Well done, my good and faithful servants. Since you were faithful in small matters I will give you great responsibilities.” The one who returns the same amount he was given is cut down by his master: “You wicked, lazy servant!”

Then, in an anti-Robin Hood statement, the master says, “To everyone who has, more will be given . . .  but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Matthew’s Jesus seems to be talking about one’s faith. To those who act on their faith, more faith will be given; those who don’t act on their faith will eventually find their faith has disappeared. When it comes to Christian faith, like our love of others, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.


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