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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.


It’s easy to forget the kind of person we’ve committed ourselves to imitate; someone who just didn’t want his followers to avoid sin. More than anything, he expected them to change their environment enough that sin might no longer be the trap it was for those who first inhabited our planet.


MARCH 5TH, 2017: FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7     
Romans 5:12-19     
Matthew 4:1-11

Back in the late 60s, Pope Paul VI convened a unique meeting at the Vatican. Realizing the majority of anthropologists were convinced the human race evolved from more than one set of “original parents,” the pontiff was anxious to explore how this rather new theory of polygenesis could fit into the Christian doctrine of original sin. Based on today’s first reading, that doctrine presumed we all sprang from one set of parents who at one point in their early existence had committed a sin so serious that it not only affected them personally, but was somehow passed down to all their descendants.
      
Among those whom Paul gathered were eminent scientists, Scripture scholars, anthropologists and theologians. Their final report was eventually published in the now-defunct Critic magazine. Though their opinions differed, they all seemed to agree on two things. First, the Yahwistic author of Genesis never expected us to take her biblical account of the “fall” literally. She simply created a classical myth to explain the origins of something we all experience: a basic sinful disorder in each of our lives. Second, the actual original sin probably wasn’t something our ancestors did, but something they didn’t do.
      
According to these experts, the first humans were few enough to have definitively changed the moral environment in which they lived.  But they didn’t. Instead, time and time again they caved into their “dog eat dog” surroundings, refusing to replace the hateful situations they encountered with the love God intended them to display. The result was that their descendants were forced to face the same disordered environment – a climate which guaranteed it would be only a matter of time before each individual committed his or her original sin.
      
It’s good to hear today’s second and third readings from this perspective. Paul is convinced Jesus of Nazareth totally changed the environment we daily encounter. He reminds the Christian community in Rome that they no longer have to give in to the hatred and mistrust flourishing around them. The risen Jesus has overcome all that. And if we have the courage to join him/her in dying and rising, we’ll also replace our disordered surroundings with an environment of love. “For, if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many?”  Each of us has the ability to change our surroundings for the better.
      
In a similar way, Matthew’s Jesus begins his pubic ministry with the message that no longer will it be “business as usual.” He’s determined to alter the way people live their lives. He isn’t, for instance, going to spend his life just taking care of people’s physical needs. Changing stones into bread won’t be a top priority. He’s determined to tackle the roots of our “screwed up” environment, not just the externals.
      
Neither is he going to do the spectacular, something that would make the headlines. No jumping off high buildings. Instead, he’s committed to the day by day loving of those around him: the one thing that would definitely change everyone’s life.
      
In the end, he’s simply not interested in having dominion over the “kingdoms of the world.”  Those who lust after such a grandiose position have obviously made a pact with the devil to manipulate their sinful surroundings to their own selfish benefit, not to eradicate them.
      
It’s easy to forget the kind of person we’ve committed ourselves to imitate; someone who just didn’t want his followers to avoid sin. More than anything, he expected them to change their environment enough that sin might no longer be the trap it was for those who first inhabited our planet.

 

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