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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.
As Luke tells us in today’s gospel passage, as other Christs our role is to “. . . Bring glad tidings to the poor . . . proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
JANUARY 24TH, 2016: THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
I Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
As much as strict Jews traditionally emphasize keeping the 613 regulations of the Mosaic Law, it seems impossible that Ezra, in today’s Nehemiah reading would have to deal with a Jewish community which knew nothing of those regulations. Yet Nehemiah tells us that’s exactly what happened in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile.
Though we’d expect Ezra and Nehemiah to tear into these ignorant individuals, they unexpectedly tell the people, “Do not be sad, and do not weep . . . Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to Yahweh.” In other words, just be happy you finally found out what Yahweh wants you to do.
Those familiar with both Scripture and church history know Ezra and Nehemiah’s experience isn’t an isolated event. People of faith are always susceptible to forgetting the essentials of their faith.
Today’s second reading provides us with a classic example.
Back in chapter 11 of I Corinthians, Paul warns his community about the sin of “not recognizing the body” during celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. We traditionally have defined this “body” as the body of Christ under the species of bread. This made sense since many of us were taught that Pius X’s criterion for children receiving their first communion revolved around their ability to distinguish Eucharistic bread from regular table bread.
Yet once we look at chapter 12 – today’s pericope – it’s clear the body to which Paul is referring has nothing to do with bread; it’s the body of Christ found in the Christian community. “As a body is one,” the Apostle writes, “though it has many parts, all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. . . . Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”
Though Paul states one of the most fundamental Christian truths, few followers of Jesus today know anything about it. It’s far easier – and far less demanding - to discover the risen Jesus present in bread or wine than in one another. When we find ourselves in the presence of the former we certainly don’t conceive of Jesus as actually being bread or wine. We conjure up our own personal images of him/her. We create whatever image we wish.
That can’t happen when we attempt to discover Jesus in those other Christ’s around us. We’re forced to experience the risen Jesus in both men and women, straight and gay, white and black, Democrats and Republicans. No wonder we prefer bread over people. Like some in Paul’s community, we’d like to bail out of the body of Christ. It’s simply too complicated. If each of us is a part of his/her presence, which part are we? Maybe we’d prefer to be an eye instead of a foot. Yet, as Paul reminds us, “If (we) were all one part, where would the body be?”
As Luke tells us in today’s gospel passage, as other Christs our role is to “. . . Bring glad tidings to the poor . . . proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” If, as the gospel Jesus says, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” then it must be being fulfilled in our day and age. It can’t just be some pie in the sky daydream.
Perhaps we rarely carry on the historical Jesus’ ministry simply because we’ve forgotten who we are. No tears, no regrets. Just be grateful we have Paul’s I Corinthians passage as a reading today. The “rich foods and sweet drink” will come later.
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