We have in today’s readings two different stories, but one Divine presence or showing. The account of the coming of the Holy Spirit as described in the Acts of the Apostles is filled with drama and startling sound effects of wind and fire. It is the stuff of movies. But the Gospel of John records a different story – Jesus, standing among the disciples, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” There was no fire here, no great wind, no shaking of the house. It was in this Breath of Jesus that the Spirit came in this new creation. God was breathing new life into the scene of sorrow and dejection, into a situation where hope had died and the promise of the reign of God seemed over and done with. That same breath or wind of God that swept over the void at the beginning of creation was now sweeping over the disciples in the Breath of Jesus and creating something new. That same breath that God breathed into the clay formation creating a living being was now being breathed into the disciples through the Breath of Jesus, recreating new life in those living beings.
How seldom we think about this function called breathing and the importance of every breath we take, until an illness such as that caused by the covid-19 virus threatens to snatch that breath away. The sufferer labours with every breath, enduring the pain because each precious breath is life. The medical staff labours to sustain the breathing with all the means at their disposal knowing that every breath the patient can take is a precious breath of life. What rejoicing those doctors and nurses do when the ventilator is no longer needed, when the oxygen doses are reduced, when the patient takes that first unaided breath, knowing that they have helped another person breathe the precious breath of life.
And Jesus stood among them and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” That is, receive the Sacred Breath of God, the Precious Breath of Life. Let this Sacred Breath clear the airways of the mind and soul, so that we can breathe in and out the life of God. We may now be experiencing a little hiatus from the pollution of our earth bringing little signs of a re-creation. May the Sacred Breath, the Holy Spirit, create in us not a hiatus but a permanent renewal of our lives, clearing out with the Breath of God the pollution of our minds and spirits. Let us not wait for the wind and fire, and the shaking of the house lest we miss the Breath of Jesus which is as gentle as the everyday breathing in and out of the divine.
And may we lift all people suffering from respiratory ailments into the healing Breath of God.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP