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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
The only way to live a fulfilled, satisfied life is to hunger and thirst for those unique relations with others which God wishes us to develop. And when we end up being insulted and persecuted because of our “weird” behavior, we should always remember the future rewards which accompany such behavior.
NOVEMBER 1ST, 2015: ALL SAINTS
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
I John 3:1-3
In order to properly understand our gospels, it’s important to remember they were written two or three generations after the ministry of the historical Jesus. Contrary to popular opinion, they’re not a complication of notes taken by eyewitnesses to that ministry. The four evangelists and the communities for whom they wrote had the advantage of living and reflecting on the presence of the risen Jesus in their midst for 30 to 60 years. So when the gospel Jesus encourages his followers to do something, we presume his gospel followers already had been doing it for a long time before his words eventually appeared in written form. This is especially important to know when we hear passages like Matthew’s beatitudes.
Instead of looking at these “blessings” as something Jesus’ disciples could expect to experience in the future, this pericope is actually a reflection on what the gospel community has already experienced. When a person actually carried through on Jesus’ command to “repent” - to turn one’s value system upside down - he or she not only began to experience God (or the risen Jesus) working effectively in their daily lives, they also began to experience reality from a completely different perspective. What once brought sadness now brings joy; what once brought death now brings life. Poverty no longer just brings pain. It also makes us aware of God’s presence in everyone we meet and everything we do. Making ourselves weak by showing mercy to others strengthens us by receiving parallel mercy from others. The only way to live a fulfilled, satisfied life is to hunger and thirst for those unique relations with others which God wishes us to develop. And when we end up being insulted and persecuted because of our “weird” behavior, we should always remember the future rewards which accompany such behavior.
But, why would anyone even start down such a difficult road? The author of I John provides a little hint about the motivation. Eventually, we all want to “be like God.” We want to look at people and things as God looks at them; to create the special environment in which all God’s people are intended to live. We simply long to go beyond the limits which this world imposes on us and our lives.
It’s important to note, as the author of Revelation reminds us, that we’re not “Lone Rangers:” we’re not expected to develop this new lifestyle by ourselves. Lots of others have the same “seal of the living God on their foreheads.” In our quest to experience God among us, we’re joined by a “great multitude, which no one can count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” That’s why communities are an essential element in living the life the risen Jesus expects us to live. Left to our own “devices” we’d most probably turn tail and run the first time we encountered any serious problem.
The fact that the beatitudes, for instance, are found in two gospels is proof that by second and third generation Christianity they had become community – not just individual – experiences. Both Matthew and Luke’s communities could reflect on what they’d all experienced when they tried to carry through on dying and rising with Jesus. Those experiences united them on the deepest levels of their lives. Though the two evangelists never seemed to have known one another, they and their churches could reflect on the same things: the common things which all other Christs encounter.
Perhaps our problem is that we’re still looking for these “things” to take place in the future instead of living our lives of faith in such a way that we can experience and reflect on them right here and now.
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