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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.

Perhaps the most important line in today’s gospel is Jesus’ remark to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”


Exodus 17:3-7
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42

We know we’re dealing with the Yahwistic source of the Torah when during those passages describing the Chosen People’s Exodus and wilderness wanderings the author goes into detail about the Israelites’ griping, grumbling and complaining. Today’s Exodus pericope provides a classic example: “. . . The people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst . . . ?’” Scholars believe this 10th century BCE author had a good reason for zeroing on that embarrassing aspect of her ancestors’ personality.

Our sacred authors always write for specific groups of people. They never compose their works for “everyone;” certainly not for us. The faces of the communities for whom they write are always before their eyes. Their unique problems prompt them to write. If there were no problems in our ancient faith communities, we’d have no Scripture.

It’s easy to conclude there must have been lots of griping, grumbling and complaining in the Yahwist’s community, else we wouldn’t have today’s first reading. Thankfully the author actually tells us what the whining was about – a simple question. “Is Yahweh in our midst or not?”

Like all faith communities, the Yahwist’s fell into the trap of creating a “sacred history:” a time like no other, when God worked in special ways for special people, a time which made their own day and age pale in comparison. If only they could have taken part in the Exodus when Yahweh worked those famous signs and wonders, or even participated in the 40-year trek through the wilderness when Yahweh constantly appeared to the Israelites, assuring them of his/her presence. But now, over 200 years later, God no longer did what God did during their sacred history. It was left to them simply to complain and grumble about Yahweh’s absence.

That seems to be why the Yahwistic author constantly reminds her readers that even during that unique Exodus event, their ancestors also griped and complained about what Yahweh was and wasn’t doing. There never was a special sacred history, a time when everything was hunky dory. The Yahwist was convinced that God’s working today, just as God worked in the past. We know how to surface that work and presence in the past, but find it difficult to uncover it in the present. The answer to the question above is, “Yes, Yahweh is in our midst. We just don’t take the time and make the effort to notice Yahweh’s presence.”

Paul of Tarsus is a firm believer in the risen Jesus working in our lives right here and now. He/she isn’t just killing time, patiently waiting in the wings for us to first change into authentic other Christs before springing into action. Our state of soul isn’t a condition for such action. The Apostle reminds the community in Rome of one of our faith’s most amazing facts, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” That insight applies not just to the past or distant future. It means our sacred history is happening all around us, even as we’re reading this commentary.

Perhaps the most important line in today’s gospel is Jesus’ remark to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John obviously presumes that “living water” is part of our everyday lives. But it’s a part almost no one notices.

Instead of griping and complaining about God abandoning us in crucial situations, we should begin to understand that we’ve probably abandoned God.



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