Friday, May 01, 2009

Spirit and Life

May 2, 2009

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, "Tabitha, rise up." She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive. Acts 9:40-41

What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:62-63


How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me? I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful. LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant; you have loosed my bonds.

I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Psalm 116:12-19


If calling his body the bread of life was not disconcerting enough for the disciples, Jesus poses another “hypothetical” question for his disciples. What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? (At least the disciples considered it hypothetical at the time.) In fact, we know that the new question was foreshadowing of what was to come true at the Ascension.

This was not the first time the Lord was nudging his followers out of their comfort zone. Whether in thought, word or deed, Jesus kept jolting his followers out of their traditional ideals of scripture (“This is fulfilled in your hearing”), behaviors (healing on the Sabbath, stoning the adulteress), and beliefs (“I am the bread of life”).

When they were not filled with the Spirit, it was hard for the disciples to follow. After the Holy Spirit descended upon them, it was easier for them to know what to do or say. Until then, they related in a very earthy, biological frame of reference. How could they not be hungry? How could they not respond to the needs of their bodies for food, clothing, water and shelter?

In this context, the Spirit and Life may be considered opposites. However, it is through the Spirit that Life is fulfilled. Jesus, through his Word, brings Spirit and Life together. The concepts “complete” each other rather than “compete” with each other. The Spirit completes Life because it aids us to rise up again over mortal limitations, just as Peter commanded Tabitha to rise up and overcome her death.


How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?

How would Tabitha/Dorcas pay the Lord back for her second chance at life?

How do we pay the Lord back for our second and third and fourth chance at life? We have the ability every week to get a second chance from the Lord through Reconciliation. For that gift, we are asked to perform some penitential act of prayer, fasting or almsgiving. The Lord seeks more than that in repayment. Isaiah gives us a hint at the answer.

Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.
Isaiah 58:5-9

Who can accept this proposal?

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