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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 key aspect of Jesus’ faith was his relationships with people. Those personal encounters, in Jesus’ mind, always trumped just keeping religious laws.



II Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36–8:3


One of the keys to understanding Matthew and Luke’s theology is to employ “redaction criticism.” That particular exegetical tool, developed after World War II, tries to surface how each of the two evangelists changed the material he copied from earlier authors in order to convey his unique theology. Matthew and Luke just didn’t copy from their sources; they redacted them. Today’s gospel pericope supplies us with a classic example of Luke’s redaction.
Notice at the end of the passage, the evangelist mentions “accompanying (Jesus) were . . . some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities . . . .” He then goes on to name Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “. . . and many others who provided for them out of their resources.”
Though one source which Luke had in front of him when he composed his gospel – Mark’s gospel – also mentioned the women who followed Jesus, it doesn’t do so until after Jesus dies in chapter 15. It’s almost a surprise to discover Jesus had attracted women disciples.
Luke, on the other hand, redacts Mark, moving his remark about the women up to chapter 7, a third the way into his gospel. So whenever Luke refers to Jesus’s disciples throughout the rest of his gospel, we’re to presume that includes male and female followers! Certainly different from what we find in the other three gospels.
We can always count on Luke to give women an even break. He, for instance, not only makes Jesus’ mother the ideal Christian, his Jesus also reminds Martha that her sister Mary, by listening to him, has “chosen the better part.” And in today’s pericope, he praises the faith of the sinful woman who anointed him and bathed his feet with her tears.
As Paul reminds the Galatians in today’s second reading, faith is always more important than “works of the law.” The Apostle is forced to say this because he’s being challenged by conservative Jewish Christians due to his converting non-Jews to Christianity without first converting them to Judaism. These “Judaizers” insist that any follower of Jesus must also follow the 613 laws of Moses. Unless they perform such works they’re not “justified:” doing what God wants them to do.
Paul is convinced that justification revolves around giving ourselves to the risen Jesus: making his/her faith our faith. He doesn’t object to anyone keeping the Mosaic laws for extra credit. But these regulations certainly aren’t obligatory. Faith, for the Apostle, is rooted in our becoming other Christs. And Gentiles can pull that off just as well as Jews.
The key aspect of Jesus’ faith was his relationships with people. Those personal encounters, in Jesus’ mind, always trumped just keeping religious laws.
Even the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, as we hear in today’s II Samuel reading, stressed the priority of relationships. Nathan confronts David over the issue of Bathsheba not so much because the king broke Yahweh’s laws, but because the Gentile Uriah had rights as Bathsheba’s husband that not even a king could disregard. Only when David recognizes his sin against Uriah does he also recognize, “I have sinned against Yahweh.”
The authors of our Christian Scriptures were convinced that the historical Jesus of Nazareth didn’t create a new religion as much as he created a new focus. He didn’t eradicate the Mosaic Law; he simply taught his followers to focus beyond it.
In Luke’s theology, other Christs are expected to uniquely focus on women. His gospel Jesus is always concerned with what he can do for them; not what they can do for him. That’s why, according to the late Fr. Frank Cleary, such women would do anything for him – even “provide for (him) out of their resources.”


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