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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.

Jesus presumes that just as we must eventually die physically to enter eternal life, so we must die right here and now to receive life right here and now. And the main way he expects us to die is to undergo a metanoia.



I Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Luke 9; 51-62

No two biblical calls are exactly the same. Though they contain the same basic elements, each is just a little bit different. In today’s first reading, for instance, Elijah permits Elisha to return home to kiss his mother and father goodbye, something Jesus forbids his prospective disciple to do in our gospel pericope. Perhaps that’s why it’s good to zero in on the elements of the calls that are the same, the elements which apply to everyone, no matter his or her historical situation.  

In every biblical call, God (or Jesus) expects the person to change his or her basic focus. What they once thought important, they now relegate to the perimeter of their priorities; what they once kept on the periphery, they now put front and center. At the start of his public ministry, the gospel Jesus labels this turnabout “repentance:” metanoia in Greek. In his mind, it’s an essential personality trait in anyone who would dare follow him; a 180 degree change in one’s value system.

In the situation of receiving a “call,” it includes a demand that one’s relationship with Jesus be more important than other relationships – even those relationships we have with our parents. The classic passage on this topic is part of today’s gospel. When he invites someone to “Follow me,” the man replies, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Jesus stuns us with the response, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Scholars remind us that most probably the man isn’t on his way to the local funeral home to make arrangements for his deceased father. That’s simply not how people were buried in Jesus’ day and age. Rather, he’s telling Jesus, “I’ll follow you, but because my father wouldn’t understand such a drastic move, let me wait until he dies and I bury him.  Then I’ll follow you.” That seems to be why he says, ‘Let the dead bury their dead.” In other words, “Haven’t you noticed that your father – by not being part of my reform of Judaism – is already dead? Let someone just as dead as he is bury him. Nothing, or no one – not even parents - should stop you from being truly alive.”

Jesus presumes that just as we must eventually die physically to enter eternal life, so we must die right here and now to receive life right here and now. And the main way he expects us to die is to undergo a metanoia.

In just what does the life the risen Jesus offers us today consist? In our Galatians passage, Paul states his belief that it’s a freedom we can’t achieve any other way. “For freedom,” the Apostle writes, “Christ set us free. . . . For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.”

Yet because our basic metanoia revolves around focusing on the importance of others, we’re never free to put others down or use them for our own purposes. On the contrary, we’re called and expected “to serve one another through love.” Other Christs simply can’t go through life doing “what we want.”

We’re to be as free as the historical Jesus was free, free to give himself to those around him, no matter the consequences. Such freedom eventually enabled him to accept death for those others.

Perhaps many of us are willing to follow Jesus in certain areas of our daily lives; those areas which don’t cost us very much. But few of us are willing to slaughter the yoke of oxen around which our peaceful lives revolve. We haven’t quite yet achieved that kind of freedom.


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