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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.
No matter what’s happening around us, God’s word is still at the heart of our faith.
APRIL 16TH, 2017: THE EASTER VIGIL
(Ideally all nine readings should be proclaimed tonight. But space limits to commenting on just four.)
It’s interesting to discover that one biblical author often depends on another biblical author. That’s the case with the inspired person who penned tonight’s first reading (the “priestly” author). Scholars agree he read and was influenced by Deutero-Isaiah – Isaiah 40-55 – the prophet responsible for tonight’s fourth and fifth readings. He seems to have been particularly moved by Deutero-Isaiah’s theology of the power of Yahweh’s word.
Pay special attention to this unnamed prophet’s fascinating reflection on that word: “For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful . . . so shall my (Yahweh’s) word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” In other words, when Yahweh says something, it happens!
It’s important to note that, unlike the Bible’s prior myth of creation (Genesis 2), Yahweh doesn’t break a sweat in the priestly author’s account. Yahweh simply says, “Let there be!” and “So there was!” Yahweh creates only by employing Yahweh’s word.
Deutero-Isaiah constantly falls back on the force of Yahweh’s word; he has no other security during the Babylonian Exile. Either people believe Yahweh’s pledge to return them to the Promised Land, or they continue to give in to the depression which has haunted them for over 50 years.
From tonight’s Exodus reading, it’s also clear that the Israelites fleeing Egypt seven centuries before the exile likewise had nothing to go on except Yahweh’s word when they faced the sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. God’s command to Moses couldn’t be simpler or more disturbing: “Tell the Israelites to go forward!” In their minds, they’re to go forward into certain death.
Of course, we’re hearing these readings against the background of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The parallel is evident. From our gospel pericope, we realize that neither could his disciples see a path through the death he had just endured. It was the end; not the beginning. Yet, as the angel reminds the women at the tomb, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”
That word of God keeps popping up everywhere, so often it would seem our faith depends on it.
Tonight’s sacred authors agree: it does.
We live our daily lives based on God’s word. If we’re determined to be people of faith, we have no other choice. Especially at this time, in this country, we’re lost if we don’t fall back on God’s word and go forward. We, like the 6th century BCE Jewish exiles, could easily give ourselves over to depression. “Things” simply haven’t turned out the way we expected. Most of us never signed on for this kind of existence.
Though I often give into the temptation not even to watch the evening news, in my saner moments I realize that “bailing out” is never the proper course of action for someone committed to carrying on the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. No matter what’s happening around us, God’s word is still at the heart of our faith. The priestly author of Genesis experienced creation in that word. Deutero-Isaiah was convinced it could bring growth. And Jesus trusted that it would eventually bring him life.
Perhaps the only thing we can hope for God’s word to bring us is just hope itself; something that will never happen if we just stay put and wait for the “enemy” to annihilate us.
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