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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.
Carrying on the risen Jesus’ ministry is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen at a specific place and time. It’s something we achieve every day of our lives, in different places, in different ways, and in our relationships with different people.
APRIL 23RD, 2017: SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
I Peter 1:3-9
Today’s second reading tells it like it is. The unknown author of I Peter accurately describes the situation in which followers of Jesus find themselves after his resurrection and before our physical deaths. “. . . Now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith . . . may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” According to the writer, we’re not just treading water here on earth; day by day we’re trying to be more and more genuine people of faith. Carrying on the risen Jesus’ ministry is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen at a specific place and time. It’s something we achieve every day of our lives, in different places, in different ways, and in our relationships with different people.
Scholars maintain that Luke, in today’s Acts passage, is probably painting a picture of a future, ideal Christian community, and not describing the actual first generation Jerusalem church. (The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans at least 15 years before he penned Luke/Acts.) Luke uses his well-known “summaries” in Acts to simply provide his third-generation Christian community with a goal toward which they should be aiming. Convinced that a true disciple’s life should revolve around the “breaking of bread and the prayers,” he shows how being faithful to these two essentials of the faith leads to “. . . the Lord (adding) to their number those who were being saved.” Luke’s message is clear: if you do it “right,” people will come.
Perhaps the practice most attracting others to the faith was the ideal community’s habit of “. . . selling their property and possessions and dividing them among all according to each one’s need;” a primitive form of Christian communism. No wonder Pope Francis’ attempts to return Catholicism to a biblical faith recently prompted some of his detractors to label him a “socialist!” Given his scriptural orientation, Francis has no other choice but to remind us that capitalism isn’t a biblically-sanctioned economic system. The problem we face is that the system of sharing which our sacred authors do sanction isn’t very acceptable to many of Jesus’ modern followers.
Neither is the condition John’s Jesus attaches to receiving the Holy Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he tells his Easter Sunday disciples. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Scripture scholars don’t regard this verse to be a proof-text for the church’s power to control the sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s much more a reflection on the power all of us share because we’re Spirit-filled other Christs. On one hand, when we forgive anyone, he or she is really forgiven on a community level; on the other hand, when we refuse to forgive, they’re not forgiven on that same level. Notice the risen Jesus doesn’t say anything about God’s forgiveness. He seems to take that for granted. He simply wants to make us aware of the power we have over others right here and now. I presume he never wants us to “retain” anyone’s sins – especially since God’s already forgiven all our sins on all levels.
It’s significant that the Thomas part of our gospel pericope revolves around the risen Jesus’ wounds. If we really are committed to being other Christs, I presume we’ll also share the risen Jesus’ wounds. Can’t think of more painful wounds than those caused by our forgiveness of others. Being aware of Jesus’ wounds should make us more conscious and more accepting of our own wounds. If we don’t have any wounds to show, maybe we should be questioning the genuineness of our faith.
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