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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.
We’re not expected to carry on the ministry of a person who died 2,000 years ago. We’re actually carrying on the ministry of someone we’ve already encountered – and continue to encounter - in our daily lives.
MAY 17, 2015: SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26
How do we know we’re continuing the reform movement begun by Jesus of Nazareth as he intended it to continue?
We’re not the first Christians to ask that question. Our sacred authors frequently dealt with that issue on different levels and in different ways.
For instance, Luke, the author of Acts, sees the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as the outward sign Jesus’ immediate followers are correctly carrying on his ministry: emphasizing his priorities, and helping people change their value systems as he demanded. But, as we hear in today’s first reading, Luke also sees the importance of keeping the Twelve intact until the Spirit’s arrival. It’s that symbolic group who first experienced Jesus’ reform, and who were committed to keeping it alive. Just as the twelve sons of Jacob comprised the heart of the Chosen People, so these twelve disciples experienced the heart of Jesus’ faith. Until the arrival of the Spirit, they were essential. That’s why Luke makes a big thing of replacing Judas.
Peter insists that the person chosen for this role “accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us . . . .” (Though some women could have fulfilled this job description, Luke is trying to maintain the symbolism of Israel’s twelve tribes: twelve sons of Jacob. That’s why it must be a man.) Of course, if any of the Twelve die after Pentecost, they’re not replaced. Once the Spirit comes, we’re operating under new rules.
The author of I John brings up one of those new regulations: love. His argument is crystal clear. “If God so loved us, we also must love one another. . . . If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” No one has better summarized the faith situation in which we find ourselves: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in them.” Our love of others guarantees continuity with the historical Jesus and his ministry. As long as we’re giving ourselves to others, we’re doing what Jesus wants us to do.
The fourth evangelist goes one step further. During his well-known last supper discourse he zeroes in on Jesus’ passion to be one with his followers. “Holy Father,” John’s Jesus prays, “keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.” By continuing to preach and live the word Jesus gave them, his disciples are keeping the risen Jesus alive in the world in which they live. “I gave them your word,” Jesus proclaims, “and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”
John’s convinced that we’re correctly carrying on Jesus’ ministry simply because he planned it that way. For the time being, we’re his substitutes. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” Though we have a tough row to hoe, it’s the row Jesus wants us to hoe.
Of course, each of today’s three sacred authors presume we’ve already had experiences of the risen Jesus alive and working in our midst. That’s the first “good news” all of them proclaim in their writings. We’re not expected to carry on the ministry of a person who died 2,000 years ago. We’re actually carrying on the ministry of someone we’ve already encountered – and continue to encounter - in our daily lives.
No wonder we want to make certain we’re doing it the right way.
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