If you are a parent, you know that the first time you heard your baby cry was a moment of joy, relief, and gratitude. After nine months of anticipation and a bit of stress and labor at the end, the thing you are waiting to hear is that your newborn baby has taken his or her first breath. If you’ve ever had the wind knocked out of you or been caught too long underwater, you know what is like to be without air in your lungs even for a moment.
We are so used to breathing and having oxygen delivered to our bodies, that we rarely think about what it would be like to go without. Yet, we jump for joy when we hear our newborn is “breathing fine.”
In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus appears to his disciples and after they rejoice in being reunited with their Lord, it says in John’s gospel that Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” At first glance this is kind of a strange moment. What did it look like? Did they think it was weird? Maybe after seeing their friend raised from the dead everything else was less strange. Why did Jesus do this?
The moment reminded me of Genesis 2:7 which says, “then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” It is literally God’s breath that gives humans life. What is Jesus doing? Jesus breaths his life into the lungs of the disciples. In this moment Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Jesus breaths his Holy Spirit into the disciples and invites them to participate in the continuation of his ministry. This piece of scripture is a snapshot of the first breath of the Church. Just as a newborn takes it’s first breath in, the Church takes it’s first breath from Jesus himself. Jesus gives life to the Church with air from his lungs.
With lungs filled with the breath of God, the disciples go out into the world to tell of the good news that God loves us so much he sent his Son to conquer death forever. The chest of the Church still rises and falls as the Holy Spirit gives us breath. Want to serve God and change the world? Take a deep breath (of the Holy Spirit).
Pray this prayer sometime this week (or every day this week, you do you). During Mass on Pentecost would be a pretty sweet spot to pray this during as well.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.