When was the last time you needed to catch your breath?
Do you remember the last time you had to catch your breath? Perhaps you were winded from walking/running/cycling up a steep flight of stairs or hill. Perhaps someone startled you by opening the door from the other side just as you were reaching for it. Or you turned a corner and “she” was there. Or “He” was there. Perhaps you had to track down your 1 ½ year old who broke away in a crowded mall. You remember the experience – your heart is pounding, your lungs are gasping as you suck down deep, deep breaths of life giving air. [make the sound] Bit by bit, your heart slows down; your breathing slows down, your blood pressure drops – as the air you have breathed does its life giving work within you. Catching your breath is the pause that allows you to re-enter the world of life, ready for the next task, ready to keep walking, fear put aside, into whatever life/God has in store for you.
Though there are many images that one can use to describe this feast of Pentecost, I wonder if ‘catching your breath’ might be a helpful image for us to explore. It certainly fits that image from John’s gospel of that first Easter night. In my mind, there were two moments in that gospel where the disciples needed to catch their breath. The first was the reason why they were locked in that upper room – that terrible Friday when it all seemed to end. There they were, trying to figure it out, trying to find air in their lungs to make the next step, to find firm footing now that Jesus was gone. And suddenly, Jesus is there. And it is like life giving air, pouring into your lungs after crossing the finish line of the race. “PEACE be with you.” Ahhh.. Let me catch that breath. Let me breathe in that news, that truth, that amazing miracle.
But here is where the story takes a bit of a twist, and in my mind, the disciples are left gasping for air again. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!” “Great! Wait – WHAT? “WE CAN HARDLY BELIEVE YOU ARE ALIVE, YOU”VE ONLY SAID FOUR WORDS TO US, (repeated twice), and NOW YOU ARE SENDING US???!!! A different kind of terror grips them, and again, they are gasping for breath out of the sheer enormity of it all. YOU ARE SENDING US? I thought you were the messiah. I thought you were the savior – and we’re just the lackey, the servants, the go-fer’s. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Jesus is insistent. But watch what he does next. “Then he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit.” To disciples who were gasping for breath, Jesus gives them the only breath they will ever need to take again. The Holy Spirit! And with that ‘catching of the Spirit’s breath”, the church was born, the disciples transformed, and the mission took flesh in the life of the disciples and apostles.
That is what Pentecost is – the catching of the Spirit’s breath so that we can do the mission Jesus first gave to the apostles and then through the church and through our baptisms, gave to us as well. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Those are not just words spoken back then, but breathed upon us this Sunday and every Sunday and every day of our lives. The eye popping, lung stopping, heart catching, spirit stretching news of Pentecost is that the mission of Jesus is ours to do.
Perhaps you have had your own “catching your breath” moment in your walk of faith. Many of us on the Faith in Action committee had that on the evening of the May 6 day of service. It was like: ‘That was amazing!” And then: Gulp! – there was the realization: “What are we supposed to do next?” Perhaps you have experienced that at other moments as well. I cannot speak of what was happening here at SJM before my appointment. But I can tell you that SOMETHING of the Holy Spirit is happening here: There are more people volunteering to do stuff. There are more people wanting to get involved and finding ways to do just that. People noticing sisters or brothers in need and reaching out to them. There is a BREATHING of the Holy Spirit upon this parish going on. And like that Easter night experience of the disciples that John describes, it is a bit daunting, a bit of a catch your breath kind of moment. But it is also an exciting time to be a part of the dream of the Holy Spirit for the world THROUGH S.J.M.
Concretely – I ask you to pray. Pray that ancient prayer of the church every day this week – Come Holy Spirit. (we’ll do it together in a few minutes) And then, perhaps, attend the presentation by Fr. Jack Schuler this Wed. night. Or revisit the buzz book with mini descriptions of all that we do here at SJM and ask: Where, Lord? And then catch not just your breath – catch the Spirit’s breath – Her breathing into you the mission of the church.
And so we pray: 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.