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Breath of the Spirit: Immersing Ourselves in Service and Text

So often the writers for Breath of the Spirit lead us through an excellent reflection on the Sunday’s readings, but today’s missive instead invites you, or rather God’s Spirit working in you, to be the leader. Using an Ignatian form of lectio divina, or sacred reading, we are invited to imagine ourselves immersed in one of the Scriptural stories. As you open your heart and find yourself somewhere in that world, who knows what you will discover – other than the always outpouring Divine Love already there, expectantly awaiting your arrival.

 

September 18, 2022: the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 8:4-7

Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Luke 16:1-13

 

Immersing Ourselves in Service and Text

An offering by delfín bautista

The readings this week share a collective message focusing on the need to lift up the poor—all those minoritized by race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, ability, socioeconomic status, or other identities that are pushed to the margins.

As a person who uses writing as a way of preaching, I am constantly exploring different ways to engage readers. This week I will try something new and share a Jesuit/Ignatian practice that invites you to experience the text with me and me with you.

Our siblings at the United Church of Christ (UCC) made popular the slogans: “Don’t put a period where God placed a comma,” and “God is still speaking.” These words reflect the reality that scripture is a living text that is constantly speaking to us. As we read and reread passages, new insights are revealed to us and often reminders of things we may have forgotten are re-revealed. This dynamic is reflected in the Ignatian practice of experiencing the text with all of who we are for inspiration—being open to how the Spirit will place into our spirits little nuggets of truth and wisdom.  It is a practice that invites and challenges us to wholistically savor and immerse ourselves in the narrative—we become scripture and scripture becomes us.  

There is no right or wrong way to do this; trust your gut, which for me is where God often relays messages.  

  • Select one of the readings be it Amos, Psalm, 1 Timothy, or Luke’s gospel. Read it through once.
  • Now read it again and place yourself into text: you can be an observer, one the individuals named, a new individual, the scribe writing the text, and/or a person listening to the text proclaimed, perhaps for the first time.
  • As you immerse yourself into the text…what do you smell, hear, savor, taste, touch, and feel … what is happening in you and with you
  • You can read all the way through and/or read until the spirit inspires you dwell with a specific part of the text (St. Ignatius would often spend hours reflecting on parts of a sentence or passage such as “Jesus walked” … he would wonder and wander with just that reflecting on the road, dirt, weather, etc. I once reflected on Jesus’ birth and in my wandering and wondering with the different birth narratives in the gospels found myself having a conversation with Mary’s midwife and her experience of the young migrant couple about to give birth in a cave).
  • Allow yourself to go off script (literally and figuratively) creating opportunities for the Spirit to inspire and reveal.  

A delfic (now I am playing with my name) twist is to imagine yourself writing one of the texts … what is the writing experience like … how are you crafting God’s words in ways that are accessible … are you the scribe putting to paper the story of Amos passed down orally from one generation to the next … are you composing a psalm inspired by King David … are you drafting the letter to Timothy … are redacting Luke’s experiences to be able to share with church communities that are forming? What is the experience of writing and serving as a microphone for God’s message to God’s people?

I am mindful that this may be new for folks and will take some practice (St. Ignatius had good reason to call retreats and meditative practices Spiritual Exercises!). If this practice does not allow you to groove with the Spirit, that is totally okay. One of the beautiful aspects of Catholic rituals and practices is that there is truly something for everyone. No pressure to make this “work’ for you; it is simply an invitation to one of many, many, many ways to approach scriptural reflections. Here are some questions that were lifted up for me in case queries are more your thing…

  • The readings challenge us to lift up the poor while also posing questions about how we balance the needs of the few with the needs of the many. How often do we sacrifice the vulnerable for the sake of the majority? In your community, is the same marginalized group constantly having to place the comfort of the dominant group before their own wellbeing?
  • How are we lifting up others in our everyday lives?
  • How are others lifting us up in our everyday lives?
  • Given the divisions within society and within our church, how do we coexist and express solidarity across differences to be able to lift up all who are pushed to the margins?
  • How do we take trust in God for granted?
  • How do we kindle and rekindle trust with God … with ourselves … with each other?

Reflecting in the gospel, Jesus’ directness is confusing … we cannot serve two masters is a profound sentiment but how does this work when you have to balance being a representative of an institution while also advocating for change? … We may have to bite tongues so that others don’t.

 

mx. delfin w. bautista, MSW, MDiv. (they/elle/delfin) is a native of Miami, FL, is of Cuban and Salvadoran heritage, and currently serves as the Director for the Lionel Cantu Queer Resource Center at UC-Santa Cruz. A social worker and activist theologian, delfin is passionate about intersectional justice and resilience, especially around the experiences of queer people of color. delfin is a past member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and Trans Caucus and currently serves on the board of directors for both Soulforce and enfleshed.

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