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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 wait for God’s word to be fulfilled is always worth it, no matter what’s happening in our lives.


JULY 16TH, 2017: FIFTHTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Isaiah 55:10-11
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23

We often forget that the oracles of individual prophets which have been collected into the books bearing their names weren’t transcribed in the order in which the original prophets chronologically delivered them. The prophecies have been artificially – and carefully - arranged by the prophet’s disciples who actually collected and “published” them, often years or generations after their mentor’s death. By that time, events had frequently taken place which altered the way those followers both looked at and presented the prophet’s words.

Even today we still engage in such “up-to-date” alterations. Perusing the classic movie channels, I can’t help but notice when the actress Nancy Davis appears in pre-1952 movies, the credits almost always list her as “Nancy Raegan,” a name she didn’t have until after her 1952 marriage to the future president. On the other hand, Jane Wyman – Ronald Raegan’s first wife who wasn’t fortunate to become the country’s First Lady - is always listed as “Jane Wyman,” no matter in what movie she appears!

After his martyrdom, Deutero-Isaiah’s followers not only saved his consoling statement about the power of Yahweh’s word, they deliberately placed it at the chapter 55 end of their collection of his prophecies. Though the Babylonian Exile had ended around 530 BCE and they were finally permitted to return to the Promised Land, much of what their mentor had assured them would happened had still not seen the light of day. Those longed-for events continued to be buried in the words the prophet had proclaimed. Yet they, like he, were convinced once Yahweh’s words had been spoken it was only a matter of time before they would take effect. “For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth . . . so shall my (Yahweh’s) word be that goes forth from my mouth . . . .” Eventually it will “achieve the end for which (Yahweh) sent it.”

Placing this oracle at the end of their collection makes it both a sign of their faith in Yahweh’s word, and a reminder that God’s disciples are committed to this faith thing for the long run. The years of water that passed unfulfilled under their life’s bridge had convinced them of that latter reality. They couldn’t have better summarized their experience of waiting.

Jesus’ first followers had parallel experiences. In today’s second reading, for instance, our earliest Christian biblical author, Paul, shares some of his insights about waiting “for the redemption of our bodies.” The Apostle is convinced it’s not enough that we’ve personally been transformed by our dying and rising with Jesus, we want the whole world to undergo the same metamorphosis. It’s no accident his letter to the Romans is one of his last writings. Paul’s been waiting for a long time. No wonder he states his belief “. . . that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” It certainly hasn’t been a peaceful wait.

Our gospel pericope provides us with a classic example of an “original” parable of Jesus (verses 1-9) which has later been “allegorized” by the early Christian community and applied to a situation the historical Jesus never encountered - people giving up the faith (verses 18-23). The historical Jesus seems to have originally told this story to those who accused him of wasting his time preaching God’s kingdom. Though they point out almost no one will ever follow through on what he’s teaching, he has no plans to stop. He’s convinced the few who actually do carry out his words will produce “a hundred, or sixty or thirtyfold.”

The wait for God’s word to be fulfilled is always worth it, no matter what’s happening in our lives.

 

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