Jesús returned to the barrio of his youth and reminded the assembled what he had learned from the heart of his pueblo. The ancient wisdom he had been raised in was his, and there, in the company of his townspeople, he had come home to demonstrate that he had learned well. He claims for himself the familiar words of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit de Dios is upon me.” Anointing by the Spirit, however, comes with responsibilities. Such anointing demands the work of justice: freeing captives, liberating the oppressed, bringing good news to the poor. But Luke’s Jesus reminds us--a few verses later--that such labor is risky business because “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in their own hometown” (Lk 4:24).
For too long we have domesticated the Holy Spirit, imagining a peaceful white dove as a comforter to support the status quo, or as an advocate without the sharp edge of advocacy. We prefer a Spirit less persistent, less irritating, less demanding then the one that gets Jesus run out of his own hometown. We do not appreciate a dis-comforter who shakes us out of our comfort zones, who finds in our diversity new ways to make common cause. We avoid a spirit who vexes and cajoles us to be prophetic advocates en conjunto (collaboratively) with those of us and among us who are pushed to the margins in church and society, familia y nacíon. The incarnation of the Spirit is not best represented by una paloma blanca (a white dove), it is more like the ubiquitous urban pigeon--disruptive, discomforting, irritating.
The incarnation of the Spirit is to be found in prophetic communities rich in diversity and animated by el espíritu de Dios. St Paul admonishes the Corinthians to see themselves in this light, especially when considering the spiritual gifts they bring. His metaphor of the body is both helpful and limited. The call to perceive themselves as an integral whole whose fates and fortunes impact the entire body focuses the Corinthians, and subsequent interpreters, to envision community in terms of interdependence and mutuality. At the same time, Paul’s analogy, because of its attention to the so-called “less presentable” and “weaker” parts, unintentionally leads to interpretations that privilege socio-economic power, ableism, maleness, and whiteness.
Scholars and theologians who write from perspectives and experiences within disability studies insist that all bodies are not the same. Human bodies are different and not all body parts are necessary for function or quality of life. Experiences of disability shift the focus away from body as if it were an abstraction and toward an emphasis on the lived particularity of embodiedness. Theologian John Swinton proposes that “As we gaze upon our different bodies, rather than assuming that there is a need for healing and change, either now or in the future, we can recognize each one is a site of holiness and a place of meeting”(23).
The incarnation of the Spirit is to be found in prophetic communities, a diversity lived at the intersections of embodied differences. Somos (we are)comunidades that live on hyphens and “at” arrobas (@). Hablamos (we speak)español, inglés, espanglish, numerous Sign Languages, and even emoji--just to name a few of the many languages in which the Spirit finds expression among us today. Somos inmigrantes, migrantes, citizens, alternately documented, and, increasingly, digital natives. Somos LGBTQ and straight, and more than a few of us unnecessarily fear each other. We are young and not so young anymore. Some of us move though the day with autism, with wheel chairs, with confidence, or with joys and sorrows guarded in the quiet recesses of our hearts. Somos healers, curanderas, caregivers, yet all of us are in need of care.
The Spirit de Dios that breathes la vida (the life) into each one of us, el espíritu that breathes upon us, the spirit that encourages us to exhale, is the same spirit that urges us on to cry out basta ya, enough already, to all that stifles its movement for justice en nuestras comunidades y casas (our communities and homes), in our churches, in our countries, y en nuestro mundo (in our world). ¡Pa’lante (onward)in the Spirit de Dios!
Parts of this homily are a revised version of Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández, “¡Una Pneumatología de Basta Ya!” in Sermons from the Latino/a Pulpit, Elieser Valentin, editor, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017, 28-34.
Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández
Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández
A self-described Hurban@́(Hispanic and urban) theologian, Carmen is Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry, and the director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, USA. Her publications include the book Theologizing en Espanglish(Orbis) and numerous chapters and articles on Latin@́theologies, Catholic social teaching, im/migration, sport and theology--with particular attention to béisbol/baseball. She is currently completing ¿El Santo? Baseball and the Canonization of Roberto Clemente, which is under contract with the Sport and Religion series of Mercer University Press. Carmen has presented in a variety of academic and pastoral venues including a conference at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. A past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS), she received their Virgilio Elizondo Award for “distinguished achievement in theology” in 2012. Carmen created Theology en la Plaza for the National Catholic Reporterwhere some of her recent essays are available.
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