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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.
One of the most powerful convictions of our faith is that we follow a “God of history.” Our God doesn’t sit around heaven all day just pulling our strings.
FEBRUARY 14TH, 2016, FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
One of the most powerful convictions of our faith is that we follow a “God of history.” Our God doesn’t sit around heaven all day just pulling our strings. We relate to a God who is part of us, a God who works through the same history all of us encounter every day.
This novel belief goes back to the earliest days of our biblical faith, as we hear in today’s Deuteronomy passage. Moses delivers a profession of faith which all Israelites are expected to make. “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous.” But notice how the object of the next sentence changes from the third person to the first. “When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us . . . .” Their ancestors’ history quickly morphs into their history.
Biblical faith can’t be understood without first understanding the history of those who profess that faith. God didn’t work in peoples’ lives just once upon a time. For our sacred authors, God continues to work in our lives right here and now.
Paul was convinced of that when he reminded the Christian community in Rome, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart . . . .” It’s a word that’s not only a part of their daily lives, it’s also a word which cuts through the human-made distinctions cluttering those daily lives - in the Apostle’s day and age, the distinction between Jew and Gentile. No matter our genetic or religious background, God’s word is embedded in our history.
Perhaps that’s why Luke – along with Matthew – lists three temptations that the historical Jesus faced before he began his preaching ministry. He’s not planning to become a cloistered monk or a detached philosopher. He’s determined to proclaim God’s word in the real world. That means he’ll have to confront the pitfalls of a real world. In his situation, he’ll have to avoid just taking care of peoples’ physical needs, to sell out to the forces of evil, or to limit himself to doing only the spectacular. He commits himself for the duration of his ministry to fight against these three real world temptations. He’s determined to relate to others on the deepest levels possible, to be guided by God’s plan for creation, and to do what’s necessary for the people around him, even if it never makes the evening news. We presume when Luke ends this pericope with the comment, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time,” that time could have been just a few hours, or days at most. The historical Jesus had to confront these temptations throughout his ministry.
In this context, it’s good to note that one of our Christian Scriptures’ most significant concepts is rarely preached on. It’s buried in the three Synoptic Passion Narratives. And usually when those two chapter-long narratives are proclaimed on Palm Sunday, there’s not much time to homilize on anything, much less on one single line. That verse simply states that at the death of Jesus “the veil of the temple was torn in two.”
The huge tapestry which separated the temple’s Holy of Holies from the Holy Place, was regarded as dividing the sacred from the profane. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are telling us that Jesus’ death and resurrection destroyed that division. In their theology, now everything and everyone is sacred.
Does it help us do a double take on how we experience the sacred history of our everyday lives, or are we more secure trying to repair the veil?
We invite you to participate in the sacred tradition of alms-giving during Lent by making a contribution to DignityUSA. Your gift keeps these profound reflections coming, and strengthens DignityUSA’s outreach to Catholics who wonder if there is still a place for them in our Church.
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