Thursday, August 18, 2016

I Will Put My Spirit in You

O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.  Ezekiel 37:12-14

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40

The Catholic Worker believes
in creating a new society
within the shell of the old
with the philosophy of the new,
which is not a new philosophy
but a very old philosophy,
a philosophy so old
that it looks like new.[i]

God likes creating things.  Sometimes those things are brand, spanking new.  See Genesis.  Sometimes those new things are made out of something else entirely and changed.  See the water blush in the presence of its creator during the wedding reception at Cana.  Sometimes, those things are renewed from the shell of the old inside the body of something new.

The two commandments Jesus gives in Matthews Good News are really not new per se. The first commandment is based in the Hebrew Bible:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Neither is the second commandment new.  It too takes root in the Hebrew Bible:
“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18)

However, Jesus elevates these two with his teaching that they are first and second to none.  He takes something old and makes it new. This fulfills the kind of vision that is implied in the first reading. The notes to the New American Bible explain more about the Vision of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel as a figurative description of God’s creation of a new Israel.

Even though that creation begins with the remains of the old Israel, the exiles under the image of dry bones, depicting a totally hopeless situation, the new Israel is radically different: it is an ideal people, shaped by God’s spirit to live the covenant faithfully, something the old Israel, exiles included, were unable to do. While this passage in its present context is not about the doctrine of individual or communal resurrection, many Jewish and Christian commentators suggest that the doctrine is foreshadowed here.

A new Jerusalem is coming. Get ready for “a philosophy so old that it looks like new,” as Peter Maurin wrote in the Easy Essays which are neither easy nor in essay form (free verse poetry). This, when Jesus proclaims the Nazareth Manifesto in the temple, we feel the full force of that new creation possible when the Spirit of the Lord is put in us.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21)

Is it any wonder Jesus would like to take something old (like us) and make us new again?  What is possible when the Spirit of the Lord is put into each one of us?

If Jesus seeks to do that on the social level, the path toward that renewal is to change one person at a time. Change, Jesus asks us, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

To accomplish this, Jesus puts his Spirit in us every time we receive the sacraments and go out into the world to love and serve him and the people according to those two greatest commandments. 

[i] What the Catholic Worker Believes,

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