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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.

The risen Jesus trusts all of us not just to carry on his/her ministry, but to go beyond what the historical Jesus was able to do between 6 BCE and 30 CE.


Acts 6:1-7
I Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-11

Serious students of Luke/Acts realize how exceptional today’s first reading is. Usually, in depicting the early Christian community, Luke assures us that everything is going along hunkydory. Jesus’ first followers are living an ideal existence: constantly loving one another, always sharing their belonging and property with the needy, and continually growing in number. That’s why today’s “bump in the road” demands some explanation.

It’s logical that communities made up of different cultural groups, each with their own languages, will eventually develop snags in their relationships. In this case, Greek speaking Hellenists are having problems with Aramaic speaking Hebrews. The issue revolves around the daily distribution of food to the community’s widows.

The Twelve’s way of resolving the conflict is actually more important for today’s church than the solution itself. “Select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task . . . .” The seven chosen men are then listed. Except for providing a pronunciation obstacle for lectors, the names don’t mean a lot to us. We might recognize Stephen and Philip, who will appear later in Acts, but the other five are easily forgotten.  

I guarantee none of the seven would have been forgotten in the Jerusalem community. Each man is a Hellenist! If Greek speaking Christians are having a problem, then Greek speaking Christians are expected to solve their problem. Christian problems are solved from within, not from outside the community.

Growing up in a pre-Vatican II church, I presumed our revered pastor would have the answer to any parish crisis. I certainly wasn’t alone in that belief. Remember the old story of the pastor who calls a parish meeting to discuss a pressing issue facing the parishioners? After announcing, “We have a problem,” he’s immediately challenged by a parishioner who reminds him, “The only way we could be having a problem, Father, is if you’ve got a mouse in your pocket.”

The recent establishment of parish councils has given the “laity” some say in what happens in their faith community. But some priests (and bishops) are quick to remind the various council members that they’re purely “advisory.” The pastor (and bishop) still retain veto power over any of their suggestions. A far cry from the high esteem Luke, the author of I Peter and John’s Jesus hold the Christian community.

“You are a chosen race,” the writer of I Peter reminds his newly baptized catechumens, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his (God’s) own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into this wonderful light.” How do one or two individuals wield veto power over such a prestigious group?

John’s Jesus carries respect for the community even further. “”Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these . . . .” The risen Jesus trusts all of us not just to carry on his/her ministry, but to go beyond what the historical Jesus was able to do between 6 BCE and 30 CE.

Ignoring Jesus’ teachings, we eventually divided Christians into clergy and laity. One group became superior, the other subservient. One group called the shots, the other took the blows. We 21st century Catholics are witnesses of this; still suffering moral consequences 50 years after the church’s hierarchical decision on birth control and today being forced to deal with ever-dwindling Eucharistic celebrations due to the artificial shortage of male, celibate priests.

The early followers of Jesus believed he left them a way to deal with such problems. But unless we dare to be committed to that way, our problems will certainly remain and increase.