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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.
Our earthly lives will become fulfilled and meaningful only if we make the choices Yahweh expects and wants us to make.
FEBRUARY 12TH, 2017: SIXTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
I Corinthians 2:6-10
It’s clear from various parts of the Christian Scriptures that one of the main reasons people originally began to imitate Jesus’ dying and rising was that it gave them a freedom they’d never before experienced.
Phycologists and psychiatrists frequently remind us that, on any given day, we rarely do anything which is totally free. Most of our actions – even our “religious” actions - are simply habitual, or performed either because we’re afraid of the consequences of doing the opposite, or because we want to maintain an image of ourselves which we’ve cultivated over the years. They’re far from being free.
But such freedom didn’t begin with Christianity. At least two centuries before Jesus’ birth, the author of Sirach reminded his readers that their Jewish faith revolves around making free choices. “God has set before us,” he writes, “fire and water . . . life and death, good and evil, whatever we choose shall be given us.” We have at least some control over our lives.
It’s important to remember that when Sirach originally penned these words about choice, he had no concept of an afterlife as we have today. The “life” he expected his readers to choose wasn’t an eternal life in heaven; it was a “new and improved” life right here and now. Our earthly lives will become fulfilled and meaningful only if we make the choices Yahweh expects and wants us to make.
Yet, as Paul reminds his Corinthian community, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to find out what God really wants us to do. Obviously not everyone who claims to know God’s mind actually knows it. According to the Apostle, the “rulers of this age” certainly have no inkling of God’s will. Unlike the risen Jesus, they’re leading us away, not toward God’s “mysterious, hidden wisdom.” That’s why it’s essential for other Christs to have Jesus’ Spirit. His Spirit alone makes our mind one with God’s mind, leading us to look at everyone and everything around us from a unique perspective – God’s perspective.
Matthew is dealing with a community which, as Jews, believed they understood God’s mind long before they came in contact with Jesus. But that encounter turned everything upside down. That seems to be behind Jesus’ assurance, “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill the law and the prophets.” There was nothing wrong with what they did before; Jesus is simply taking them to a new level. He’s concerned not with the afterlife, but with the here and now of entering “the kingdom of heaven:” of experiencing God working effectively in their daily, humdrum lives. To pull that off they have to freely choose to go beyond the 613 Laws of Moses.
When Matthew’s Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said . . . ,” he’s quoting one of those covenant regulations. But in each case, he takes his followers beyond the usual interpretation of that particular regulation, giving it a new meaning, one that surpasses the “righteousness” of even those “super-Jews:” the scribes and Pharisees. His disciples, for instance, are not only to avoid physical murder, they’re to renounce even the psychological murder of someone that comes from verbally abusing them.
Modern moral theologians often remind us that God will eventually judge us only on the things we freely chose to do. Whatever we did out of force or fear – like going to Mass on Sunday because our parents gave us no other choice – will play no role in our eternal future. The historical (and risen) Jesus certainly wants us to make free choices, choices which will not only get us into heaven one day, but will even now enable us to experience the heaven that’s already around us.
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