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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.
But no one originally thought of that group as the church’s first bishops. They were simply a classic symbol of the historical Jesus’ plan to offer his reform to all of Israel’s twelve tribes.
AUGUST 13TH, 2017: NINEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
I Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Today’s three readings are quite disturbing. They surface things many of us would rather keep under a theological lock and key. Perhaps some of the stuff we learned in catechism class “ain’t necessarily so.”
The “thing” in our first reading occurs immediately after today’s liturgical passage. It’s consoling to us believers to know that Yahweh speaks to Elijah not in wind, an earthquake, and fire, but in “a tiny whispering breeze.” Couldn’t be a more pleasant encounter. Yet what God asks the prophet in this specific situation is more than unsettling. He/she demands to know, “What are you doing here?”
Elijah is running away from Jezebel, the Israelite Queen who’s put a contract out on his life. Thankfully, Yahweh helped him escape to Mount Horeb (Sinai) by providing him with sufficient food and water to trek 40 days and 40 nights through the wilderness. But now God abruptly informs him he shouldn’t be there. He insists the prophet return to Israel and forcibly confronts this idolatrous queen. After giving him the means to get to Horeb, Yahweh insists he’s in the wrong place!
Did something parallel ever happen to you? Is it possible for God to change God’s mind?
We know from today’s Romans pericope that something parallel did happen to Paul of Tarsus. He’s spent a lifetime trying to be as good a Jew as he could possibly be, adhering to all the Mosaic 613 laws. Yet through his experience of the risen Jesus, he’s discovered God wants him to go beyond those regulations and become another Christ. Justification – doing what God wants you to do - has taken on a completely new meaning for this Apostle to the Gentiles.
Yet Paul claims he would be willing to give up all those saving insights and be “cut off from Christ” if only his fellow Jews would embrace this unexpected path to justification. With countless acts of anti-Semitism in our not too distant Christian past, it’s difficult for us to appreciate Paul’s frame of mind. That’s simply not how a lot of us were “brought up.” To say our faith springs from and revolves around Judaism is an understatement. But it’s something few of us have ever been encouraged to explore.
Neither have we Catholics been encouraged to explore Peter’s sinking in today’s gospel pericope. Accustomed to applying just one biblical verse to the leader of the Twelve – Matthew 16:18: “You’re the rock and on this rock I’m going to build my church!” – we conveniently forget the other things said to Peter in the Christian Scriptures. Things like, “Get behind me, Satan!” or today’s statement, “O you of little faith.”
Our evangelists had no idea this poor, probably illiterate fisherman would one day morph into the first Roman Catholic infallible pope. As I mentioned above, he functions as the gospel leader of the Twelve. But no one originally thought of that group as the church’s first bishops. They were simply a classic symbol of the historical Jesus’ plan to offer his reform to all of Israel’s twelve tribes. For this Galilean carpenter, the tribe of Naphtali was just as important as the tribe of Judah. And he demonstrated that conviction by traveling around with the Twelve: a group meant to bring back memories of the twelve sons of Jacob.
Matthew believes anyone – even Peter – can eventually stop focusing on Jesus and make other things a priority. When that happens, the person begins to sink, overwhelmed by those other things.
It’s interesting today that we once again have a pope – Francis - who personally focuses on Jesus, and challenges us to do the same. No wonder he faces opposition. We’re a little out of practice. Many of us simply haven’t done that for a while.
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