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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.
“Don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” Commit yourself to living day by day.
FEBRUARY 26TH, 2017: EIGHTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
I Corinthians 4:1-5
I was part of a prison retreat team some years ago, when I noticed a handwritten poster on one of the conference room’s walls. It carried a simple message: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I, God, will never forget you.” One of the residents had obviously been deeply moved by today’s Deutero-Isaiah passage.
This unnamed 6th century BCE prophet confronted many difficulties during his Babylonian ministry. One of the most serious revolved around the captives’ belief they’d been deserted by Yahweh. They had good reason to come to that conclusion: they and their families had been in Babylon for over 50 years. Any hope of returning to Israel had disappeared years ago. Besides, at that point in salvation history, most Jews believed Yahweh – like all other gods – was territorial. He was God only in Israel. Take one step across the country’s border and you had to deal with another country’s gods and goddesses. Why trust a God who was helpless in Babylon?
But since Deutero-Isaiah was a proponent of the novel theology that Yahweh was the one and only God, he was certain Yahweh was just as powerful in downtown Babylon as he was in downtown Jerusalem. He was convinced Yahweh was more one with the captive Israelites languishing in a foreign land than a mother with the child at her breast.
Five hundred years later, Jesus of Nazareth confronted a similar problem. As we know from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, he demanded some radical morality from his followers. They were to treat others in completely unique forgiving and loving ways. Anyone who dared follow his radical lead logically feared God would leave them in the lurch. After they generously gave everything of themselves to those around them, what would happen to them? That seems to be why Matthew’s Jesus spends so much time assuring them of God’s care and concern.
He tries to convince them not to worry about what they’ll eat, drink or wear. They’re not to fudge on their imitation of him. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” In other words, when you begin to notice God acting effectively in your lives, you’ll also begin to notice God taking care of those lives. “Don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” Commit yourself to living day by day.
Paul takes us even deeper into God’s care. In today’s I Corinthians passage he reflects on questions about his own ministry, not certain whether he’s failed or succeeded in what the risen Jesus has called him to do. As a “steward of the ministries of God,” he can only keep trying to be trustworthy in carrying out his mission. He constantly works at truthfully sharing God’s plan with those around him, no matter the results or consequences.
The Apostle doesn’t seem to be losing any sleep at night, second-guessing what he’s done or hasn’t done. He’s convinced only the risen Jesus can make such a judgement, and he/she’s not expected to do that until the Parousia.
I presume one of the reasons Paul doesn’t worry about success or failure is because, as he once told the Galatians, he’s experienced the risen Jesus. And that encounter originally took place while he was still a sinner – a persecutor of Jesus’ disciples. If the risen Jesus was caring for him while he was in that state, then he/she must be near to and concerned for him and all of us on a level that goes far beyond even the love of our parents.