Pentecost Sunday: Learning to Breath Again

Photo by Kelvin Valerio from Pexels

In the madness and chaos of the present world, we become engrossed with so many things but have taken for granted the more essential things. Among the most essential things that we take for granted, breathing tops the list.

Taking for granted breathing is like, as the popular idiom says, failing to stop and smell the roses. When we are too busy to live life, we need to stop and smell the roses. We can slow down and appreciate the beauty and meaning of life.

Whether we are aware of it or not, breathing has taken a center stage in the current affairs of our world. The deadly covid-19 pandemic has one of its major symptoms as trouble breathing and shortness of breath. This is why ventilators, a device that pumps air into the lungs, has become a lifesaving device for people with severe covid-19 illness.

The World Health Organization estimates that 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. The major causes of air pollution are vehicle exhaust fumes, fossil fuel-based power plants and exhaust from industrial factories. This show that how we treat the environment and mother nature has direct correlation with our breathing.

Last year, the United States was rocked by the murder of George Floyd. “I can’t breath” were the last words of George Floyd who died at the feet of Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the back of his neck for over nine minutes. Floyd shouted “I can’t breathe” multiple times while he was under Chauvin’s knee. Floyd’s dying words have become a rallying cry at demonstrations around the world amid a reckoning with systemic racism and police brutality.

Why am I talking about breathing on this feast of the Pentecost? Because the Christian life, much like breathing is one of receiving and sharing the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. More than rituals, laws, doctrines, instructions, and structures, the Christian life is living— inhaling and exhaling the Holy Spirit. Christian life is to live life according to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit.

Today we celebrate the Pentecost which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary and other followers of Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel today, the risen Lord Jesus breathed on his disciples the Holy Spirit.

On the evening of that first day of the week …
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you” …
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

I’d like us to take a deep breath and intently listen again to the words in the gospel: Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” The disciples partook of the risen life of Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit breathed on them by Jesus and the Father. Christian life is first and foremost sharing in the divine life–the life of the Trinity–made possible through the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31) the Holy Spirit came down “like a strong driving wind,” and appeared as “tongues of fire”, and finally rested on each of the disciples. This emboldened the disciples and gave them the gift to speak in every language of all the people gathered at Jerusalem during that day.

The Holy Spirit re-created the disciples. The Holy Spirit set the disciples on fire. Compare the apostles before and after Pentecost, oh what a difference the Spirit makes. From timid they became bold, from lethargic they became energetic  and from fearful they became courageous – all for the sake of the good news of Jesus.  As Pope Francis has said about the church of Pentecost,

“She is a Church that doesn’t hesitate to go out, meet people, proclaim the message that’s been entrusted to her, even if that message disturbs or unsettles the conscience.” (Pope Francis, “By the Power of the Spirit the Church Astounds & Confuses,” Angelus, June 8, 2014)

On this feast of Pentecost, we are called to stop and slow down and learn to breath again the Spirit of God. We need to stop all our quest for self-promoting conquest and allow more the Spirit to lead us, guide us, to shake us out of our complacencies, to disturb us out of our passiveness, to empower us to speak the language of today in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

Despite all its craziness and messiness, God will re-create the world through the Holy Spirit. “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Isaiah 43:18, Isaiah 43:19, Revelation 21:5, Isaiah 65:17, Ephesians 2: 15). We have in need more now of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We need a new Pentecost, as St. John XXIII prayed in preparation for the Second Vatican Council in 1962, “Renew Your wonders, O God, in our day — as in a new Pentecost!”

Let us celebrate Pentecost today by being still and allowing God to make wonders in our lives throuhg the promptings of the Spirit. Let us ask the Holy Spirit, to recreate us once again so that we may become fully alive in breathing with God and fully creative and brave in proclaiming the gospel in every language, in every avenue of communication, in every culture and in every situation we find ourselves today.

“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.”

I am passionate about the intersection between new media and technology. I continue to research and apply new media in theology and vice-versa. I am also a fan of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and her continuing relevance in today’s digital world.
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