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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.

God’s call always revolves around relating to others in a new way; it always forces us to go out of ourselves and concentrate on those around us.



I Samuel 3b-10, 19
I Corinthians 13c-15a, 17-20
John 1:35-42

Those who have seen the classic movie Simon Birch remember how the title character is convinced that one day God’s going to use him to accomplish something great. “He’s going to make me a hero,” he tells his best friend. And in the end, in spite of almost everyone ridiculing his belief that he’s being called, he does something very heroic.

The original readers of our Sacred Scriptures could identify with the young boy’s conviction of having a calling from God. Like Simon, they believed God had set them aside for greatness. Their heroic feat probably wouldn’t even make that evening’s local TV news, but it would be something which, without God’s help, they couldn’t have pulled off. They listened for that call throughout their lives, always ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice.

Of course, once Jesus’ second century CE followers started to adopt a hierarchical structure in their communities, their expectation of receiving a divine call began to fritter away. More and more, people became convinced that only priests and bishops actually received such calls. They even began to eisegete the gospel calls to discipleship – like the one in today’s gospel pericope – interpreting them as calls to the hierarchy. They were convinced Jesus wasn’t calling his first followers simply to be other Christs – imitators of himself - he was calling them to the newly-developed clerical state of life.

The biggest pitfall of this misinterpretation was that many people eventually stopped hearing the calls which God and the risen Jesus were constantly giving them. They reasoned: “Such calls are for special people, not me.” Yet God and the risen Jesus didn’t stop calling just because people stopped listening. Knowing this is the first step in returning to the biblical experience of calls.

As we hear in today’s I Samuel reading, the young Samuel had yet to discover that Yahweh actually calls people. After his “Abbott and Costello Are You Calling Me?” routine with Eli the priest, the boy eventually takes his mentor’s advice and answers Yahweh’s next call with a simple, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God expects God’s people to be listeners. We can’t get off the hook by pretending God’s speaking to someone else, or not even calling at all.

Paul meets our feelings of unworthiness head on. “Do you not know,” he asks the Corinthian community, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” If God’s Spirit is in us, then God can certainly be expected to communicate with us. But we must stop focusing on ourselves. God’s call always revolves around relating to others in a new way; it always forces us to go out of ourselves and concentrate on those around us. That’s where today’s gospel pericope kicks in. Its key line is Jesus’ question to the two disciples of John the Baptizer who were following him: “What are you looking for?”

Well-known spiritual author Jack Shea often reduces the historical Jesus to the bare essentials. “Jesus of Nazareth,” he states, “was concerned with answering just three questions: what do you want out of life, where do you get it, how much does it cost?”
Our sacred authors agree. Unless we have some idea about what we want out of life – know what we’re looking for – God’s voice will never be able to break through the other voices which drown it out.

If our life’s purpose is just to tread water; to leave this earth exactly as we found it on the day we were born, then it might be best we don’t hear God’s call. It would just aggravate us.