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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.
Throughout his gospel, Jesus constantly identifies with those on the fringes of 1st century CE society; with sinners, women, Samaritans. Especially, in the Passion Narrative he hears God’s word about identifying with those carrying out his death sentence, even going so far as becoming one with the criminals sharing his same fate. His mercy and forgiveness seem to be the way he carries through on having heard that word.
MARCH 20TH, 2016: PALM SUNDAY
It’s either ironic or somehow divinely planned that the Passion Narrative proclaimed on Palm Sunday during this official church year of mercy and forgiveness is from Luke’s gospel. Lucan scholars constantly remind us that his gospel, more than the other three combined, zero in on the merciful Jesus. And nowhere is this part of his personality more stressed than in Luke’s Passion Narrative.
For instance, only Luke mentions Jesus miraculously replacing the severed ear of the High Priest’s servant in Gethsemane. Only Luke has Jesus pray, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!” as his enemies pound nails in his wrists. And Luke’s Jesus alone assures the repentant thief, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
As I’ve mentioned in other commentaries, Luke employs Jesus’ mother Mary as the example of the perfect “other Christ.” She fulfills the evangelist’s definition of a perfect Christian: she hears God’s word and carries it out. That’s why today’s Deutero-Isaiah reading fits perfectly into the hearing part of Luke’s theology. In his third song of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, the prophet supplies us with the most precise definition of a disciple of Yahweh. “Morning after morning,” he writes, “Yahweh opens my ear that I may hear: and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.”
Carroll Stuhlmueller always reminded us that God’s perfect disciples constantly hit the floor every morning listening, listening today for what they missed in God’s word yesterday, listening for something God hadn’t even mentioned yesterday. True discipleship always revolves around listening.
Though Luke would totally agree, he especially zeroed in on listening how God wishes us to show mercy on any given day, in any given place, and to any given individual. This is certainly the word of God which he presumed followers of Jesus would not only hear, but actually carry out.
This was also the emptying out of which Paul speaks in his letter to the Philippians. In the Apostle’s theology, before Jesus could be proclaimed as Yahweh (the Lord), he had to completely empty himself, taking the form of a slave. In other words, he had to identify with the lowest caste of humans.
In some sense, that’s what Luke also has his gospel Jesus do. Throughout his gospel, Jesus constantly identifies with those on the fringes of 1st century CE society; with sinners, women, Samaritans. Especially, in the Passion Narrative he hears God’s word about identifying with those carrying out his death sentence, even going so far as becoming one with the criminals sharing his same fate. His mercy and forgiveness seem to be the way he carries through on having heard that word.
It would seem that, though many of us became experts on giving the correct answers to catechism questions, we either flunked the course on listening, or never signed up for it. (Perhaps in some places, it wasn’t even offered!)
We all know dogs can hear sound waves our human ears can’t pick up. In a parallel way, our sacred authors tried to enable their readers to hear voices people around them either couldn’t pick up or refused to pick up. From their own experience they knew this wasn’t an easy task. The Hebrew word, for instance, which Deutero-Isaiah employs for Yahweh opening his ear every morning, is the same word that in other places of Scripture is used to describe drilling out a well. The prophet is obviously convinced that hearing God’s word takes a lot of effort.
Perhaps one of the best ways to celebrate this week of holiness – besides participating in the various liturgical celebrations – would be to work on our hearing. Might make mercy a lot easier to practice.