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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.
Only by being open to the Spirit working in everyone and everything they encounter will they discover the meaning God has placed in each of their lives. Once they’ve experienced the risen Jesus, they can never again be content with just looking at a shadow-filled wall.
AUGUST 16TH, 2015: TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
There are Scripture scholars today who believe the author of this part of John’s gospel was influenced by the Greek philosopher Plato. Living over three hundred years before Jesus’ birth, this famous thinker developed a fascinating analogy to explain how we live our lives. We’re chained in a cave, facing the rear wall, the cave entrance behind us. The only thing we can see is the shadows that appear on that wall, shadows created by the sun shining behind objects as they pass in front of the cave. Though we think we’re seeing real things, we’re only seeing their shadows. The real, true world is behind us.
That’s where, according to Plato, philosophers come in. They not only unchain us, they also force us to turn around and actually perceive the real and the true; a quest in which everyone is expected to engage.
If John wasn’t directly influenced by Plato, he certainly shared the philosopher’s basic insight. Notice how his Jesus speaks about the Eucharistic bread and wine: “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Any other food and drink we consume is simply a shadow of the real, true food and drink which Jesus offers. The risen Jesus is the one who breaks our chains, turns us around, and exposes us to the real.
Not only does this reality breakthrough in the Eucharist, it also leads us to the true, eternal life for which all of us long. Jesus couldn’t be clearer: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”
John isn’t the only biblical author who tells us we’re not always dealing with the real in our everyday lives. The unknown author of the letter to the Ephesians also goes down that path. In today’s pericope, for instance, he reminds his readers that in order to experience the will of God in their daily lives they must approach those lives from a totally different perspective than the non-believers around them. He expects them to be reflective, watching carefully how they live, valuing each moment. Only by being open to the Spirit working in everyone and everything they encounter will they discover the meaning God has placed in each of their lives. Once they’ve experienced the risen Jesus, they can never again be content with just looking at a shadow-filled wall.
Though the author of Proverbs knew nothing of the risen Jesus, he was also convinced that people of faith saw things others missed. They accomplished this by developing “wisdom:” by surfacing patterns in God’s behavior in their everyday lives. (It’s important to note that our Scriptures present us with a “wisdom debate.” Some authors, like those responsible for the books of Wisdom and Proverbs argued such patterns not only existed, they could actually be found and learned. Others, like the author of Job, contended God’s behavior patterns were simply the figment of fertile imaginations. Yahweh simply did whatever Yahweh wanted to do, whenever and to whom Yahweh decided to do it.)
Whether divine patterns exist or not, our Proverbs writer knew that true people of faith had to engage in a constant quest for “understanding.” They were committed to encountering a God who would lead them beyond the point at which most people stopped, a point in which they would break the chains which limited their field of vision.
Our sacred authors not only saw things most of us miss, they were committed to helping their readers come out of the shadows and see and benefit some of those same life-giving things.
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