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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’ll only begin noticing God present in those we meet and the situations we experience after we achieve a 180 degree switch in what we believe is important in life: when we start focusing on people and things we never before noticed. In this particular passage, we take our eyes off ourselves and put them on others.
SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2015: TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Today’s gospel pericope gives us the second of Mark’s three ways of dying and rising with Jesus.
Last week, Mark’s Jesus told his followers they must carry their “taus:” be totally open to whatever God asks of them. Today he becomes more specific about the implications of such openness.
Following the same pattern of predication, misunderstanding and clarification, the evangelist begins by having Jesus talk about his future arrest, death and resurrection. But then quickly adds, “They did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.” It’s clear they didn’t understand because “on the way” they were “discussing among themselves who was the greatest.”
To the amazement of the Twelve, Jesus first confronts their ambitions - “Those who wish to be first, shall be the last of all and the servants of all” - then presents them with an “audio/visual.” “Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.’”
No matter what part of Mark’s gospel we’re reading, we must always go back to chapter one. There – at the beginning of his public ministry - Jesus not only announces the good news that “God’s kingdom is at hand,” he also tells us how to surface God working effectively in our everyday lives. We must “repent:” totally change our value systems. We’ll only begin noticing God present in those we meet and the situations we experience after we achieve a 180 degree switch in what we believe is important in life: when we start focusing on people and things we never before noticed. In this particular passage, we take our eyes off ourselves and put them on others.
If our life’s goal is always to become the head high honcho, people who crisscross our lives will simply be stepping stones to reaching that end. If some individuals, like children, really can’t help us achieve the notoriety for which we yearn, just sluff them off to the side. Anyone useless to me, is useless, period.
As an essential part of repentance, Mark’s convinced that those committed to dying and rising with Jesus will eventually discover no one is useless. Each person we encounter throughout our lives will present us with another way to surface the risen Jesus among us.
This insight parallels the insight some Jews received about 100 years before Jesus’ birth. During that period the Wisdom author, for instance, began to understand there’s a life after this life. Once that shift in their faith happened, God’s biblical people started zeroing in on more than just the here and now. There was a future to consider; a time when even some of “those condemned to a shameful death” would be taken care of by Yahweh. Life doesn’t end with our physical deaths.
In the same vein, the writer of the letter of James is convinced that changing our life’s focus will eventually change our personalities. We always have the possibility of switching from jealous and ambitious individuals to peaceful, gentle and compliant members of a vibrant Christian community.
But of course, as Mark reminds his readers in today’s pericope, to pull this off, we first have to be committed to dying and rising as his Jesus defines those two terms. Among other things, we have to be willing to look into a mirror and notice the person standing next to us before we notice ourselves, to experience God’s presence in an individual afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and to never again construct a church building with a children’s cry room in it.
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