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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.

Our faith comprises more than just the unique moment in which we make a conscious decision to imitate Jesus’ dying and rising. We actually have to carry through on that choice for the rest of our lives.


Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35

Our faith comprises more than just the unique moment in which we make a conscious decision to imitate Jesus’ dying and rising. We actually have to carry through on that choice for the rest of our lives. 

The disciple of Paul responsible for the letter to the Ephesians certainly understood the day by day consequences of becoming other Christs. ìYou must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds,î he writes. ìThat is not how you learned Christ.î 

Those who are committed to learning Christ are expected to ‘put away their old selves and former ways of life.’ Each day they must ‘be renewed in the spirit of their minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.’ Obviously everyone in the author’s community accomplished such a turnabout the day they gave themselves over to Christ and were baptized. But how do they follow through on this commitment every day for the rest of their natural lives?

That’s where today’s gospel comes in. 

John’s Jesus expects us, among other things, to fall back on the Eucharist. He presumes that to maintain life, we must eat. But when we’re talking about the kind of life that helps us ‘accomplish the works of God,’ natural food isn’t enough. That’s why his Jesus returns us to the event narrated in our Exodus passage. 

Scripture scholars immediately point out that whenever we surface a ‘grumbling or griping’ narrative in any part of the wandering in the wilderness experience of the recently freed Israelites, it’s from the ‘Yahwistic source.’ This particular oral tradition was written down - perhaps by a woman! - during the 10th century BCE ‘glory days’ of ancient Israel; most probably while Solomon was on the throne. 

Though everything seemed to be going along fine for the majority of Jews during that period, this particular author consistently pointed out that, just below the surface, things weren’t as terrific as people imagined. For instance, it’s the Yahwistic author who, back in chapter 2 of Genesis, brought up the clothes issue. If we’re living in a perfect world ñ as some of Yahweh’s people thought ñ then why do we wear clothes? Obviously, something’s disordered otherwise we’d have no problem going around naked.

In a parallel way, some 10th century Israelites began to idealize their history ñ especially the Exodus. They presumed all the enslaved Hebrews immediately responded to Yahweh’s call to leave Egypt, marched resolutely through two walls of sea water and entered the Sinai wilderness with great faith in God’s care and protection. This inspired author saw salvation history from a different perspective. She was convinced that if God’s Chosen People for whom she was writing in the 10th century griped and grumbled about Yahweh’s care and protection, then their ancestors in the 12th century must have given into the same temptation of mistrust. In other words, there’s no ideal history. Our relationships with God and one another have pretty much been the same through the centuries.

Just as the Exodus Israelites needed the manna and quail as signs and helps of Yahweh’s protection, so late first century Christians needed the risen Jesus’ ‘true bread from heaven’ as a sign and help to achieve the life to which they were committed. Nineteen centuries later, we’re still in this faith thing for the long haul. We long for that day when we’ll never again hunger or thirst. But, in the meantime, in the midst of our grumbling and griping over the demands of that faith, we’d better take full advantage of the Eucharistic food the risen Jesus offers us right here and now, else we might fall by the wayside.


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