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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.


The problem is most of us became familiar with our faith by memorizing catechism questions and answers, not by studying and acquiring the personality of Jesus of Nazareth. We were drilled in all the dos and don’ts of organized religion, regretfully ignoring the frame of mind of the person who first shared his faith with us, a frame of mind he demanded his followers make their own.


MARCH 6TH, 2016: FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT

Joshua 5:9a, 10-12
II Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Today’s readings dovetail with the metanoia message we surfaced in last weekend’s readings, providing us with one of the outward signs of the challenging value system Jesus demands we acquire.

As we listen to today’s reading from II Corinthians, it’s clear Jesus’ disciples were expected to carry on his ministry. Paul reminds his community: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” What an itinerant preacher from Galilee started in the first third of the first century CE, we’re to continue, no matter in what century or part of the world we live.

The problem is most of us became familiar with our faith by memorizing catechism questions and answers, not by studying and acquiring the personality of Jesus of Nazareth. We were drilled in all the dos and don’ts of organized religion, regretfully ignoring the frame of mind of the person who first shared his faith with us, a frame of mind he demanded his followers make their own.

In some ways, Jesus probably would have nodded approval that our Joshua reading is part of today’s liturgy. The sacred author rejoices that, after 40 years of wilderness wandering, the Israelites can finally stay in one place long enough to plant and harvest a crop. In a parallel way, the historical Jesus constantly reminded his followers that they were always going to reap what they had sown, prophetically pointing out the future implications of their present actions. In doing so, he revealed his own personality, conveying the value system he wanted his followers to acquire.

Nowhere is Jesus’ personality better conveyed than in his parables, and today’s story of the “prodigal father” is one of his best.

Often the evangelists give us the parable without noting the circumstances which triggered the parable, making for wide interpretations. Fortunately that’s not the case with this parable. The triggering device is, “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” At this point Jesus begins this well-known parable. (Amazingly, before the 1970 Vatican II-inspired reform of the lectionary, we never heard this parable proclaimed in a weekend liturgy!)

Because of the circumstances prompting the parable, the story must be seen from the perspective of the older brother. He hasn’t done anything wrong; he’s “served his father” faithfully through the years. Technically, once his younger sibling got his share of their father’s estate, everything else the father owns belongs to him – including the “finest robe,” the “ring on his finger,” the “sandals on his feet,” even the “fattened calf.” His brother gave up everything when he received his “share of the estate.”

Yet once the boy returns penniless and begging, their father treats him as though he still had the rights he’d relinquished when he stormed out the house. Every lawyer in town would jump at a chance to represent the older boy in a lawsuit against his father and brother. It’s a black and white case.

Jesus obviously believes when we’re dealing with repentant sinners, we’re to throw the “book” out the window, not worrying even about the “rights” of the righteous. No matter the problems it creates, we’re to lovingly concentrate on the comfort of the sinner, welcoming her or him back into the relationship they enjoyed before the sin. In dealing with God, we’re dealing with a loving, forgiving parent, not with a system of unforgiving rules and regulations.

No wonder we concentrated so intently and so long on catechisms instead of Jesus’ personality. We could get into a lot of trouble by actually acquiring his frame of mind.

 

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