The Art of Breathing
I saw a tee shirt the other day. It said simply, “BREATHE!” I am not so sure why that word seemed so profound. Sometimes we forget to breathe. Sometimes in the midst of crazy lives, we forget to take a “breather.” Fear will sometimes take away our breath. Every day the media fills us with so many things that knock the breath out of us. Jesus breathed on his shame-laden disciples in St. John’s account of the empowerment after the Resurrection. He linked breathing with forgiving. Fifty Days after Passover for Hebrews was the celebration of the Feast of Weeks. It was the Harvest festival that celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. That covenant helped them to breathe anew as chosen and beloved people of God. So….on this 50th day after Easter, we celebrate the Harvest of the Spirit…Gathered together by God’s breath breathed by Jesus. A great definition of Christian Spirituality is the state of having been breathed on.
Luke’s account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles builds on the story of the Incarnation at the start of his Gospel. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled Mary to conceive and give birth to Jesus, so the Spirit conceives and gives birth to the church, the body of Christ in the world, at Pentecost. Breathing is part of birthing. I believe this is why it was important for Luke to place Mary among the disciples in the upper room praying for the coming of the Spirit. Mary’s faith inspires the faith of the disciples, who must say yes, as she did, finally for the church to be born.
John’s Gospel also identifies the Spirit as Advocate, the one who works with and within the church. She brings our defects, deflections and dramas before God’s mercy. The healing helps us make Jesus visible and effective in the world. We are the hands and feet, eyes and ears, voice, and touch of Jesus. The risen one gives his disciples the power to forgive and to infuse God’s peace. This now has to be our passion.
So in reality, the birthday of the church is Pentecost. It is also a “staging area” where we gather to be nourished and empowered before being sent forth to witness to the message of Jesus. It is the place to practice the forgiveness we must pass into the world about us. Let us be filled with breath, fire, and energy as we take the Spirit and her peace into the human community. As we leave the Easter season, many thanks to the many staff, volunteers and St. Mary’s many friends who have animated this season for all of us. “The Lord give you peace.”
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM
My thanks to Pat Marrin 2015 Celebration article for parts of the above reflection.