Live in the Spirit

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 31, 2020 Pentecost Sunday - John 20:19-23

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Many of us have recently learned a bit about the importance of our respiratory activity. That’s because our system of breathing is the primary target of the coronavirus. Most who die from the virus lose the capacity to breath. And what’s more central and essential to human life than breathing?       

In the original language of Bible, the word for breath is the same world that is used for spirit. So, when today’s gospel states that the Risen Christ breathed on his disciples and then said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” we can think about this moment as they were being filled with the breath of God, or put simply, divine life. Of course, this was not an act that ended with this Pentecostal moment. It continues in the life of the church. In Baptism, for instance, this same Spirit is “poured” into those who become part of God’s family.

We see in this gospel a connecting of some key points of our Christian faith. There is, first of all, God’s Spirit (who is God) sent into us. While it may sound like a stretch, we can think of this as like being attached to a divine respirator. God’s breath flows into us, giving us a share of God’s life. That’s what the church means when it uses the word, grace – which is the gift of making us daughters and sons of God. This is not a metaphor, not poetry, not an exaggeration. We are divinized by God’s Spirit entering us. We are transformed.

And as long as we remain attached to that divine source of life, we remain directly connected with God, the source of our life.

Some have said that over the ages the Church has mostly forgotten about the Holy Spirit. We pray to the Father. We connect with Jesus, the Son. But we pay minimal attention to God’s Spirit, who in a way is the most important and active person of the Trinity in our lives. The Holy Spirit not only breathes divine life into us, but is immediately present in us, to inspire (!) us, every moment of our lives.

When I was involved in Catholic higher education, we began each academic year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit. That was it. Once out the door of the campus church, no further mention was made of God’s Spirit on our campus, at least publicly. Much the same might be said in other church settings. Once the feast of Pentecost ends, the appreciation for the gift of God’s Spirit is often set aside. Maybe with each breath we take, we might think about that breath as being not just a natural act, but also a gift from God’s Spirit.

©David M. Thomas, PhD    


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