The spirit is the breath of God and the breath of life


Within the past few weeks there was an amazing rescue of a twelve-year-old boy whose foot got caught in a drain at a water resort. It was only a few feet of water but the boy’s head couldn’t reach the surface with his foot caught. A man jumped next to him and gave him mouth to mouth air for eight minutes under water until the emergency personnel freed his foot. The boy has recovered and appears to have no harmful effects of the ordeal aside from shortness of breath which is also improving with time.

Any story of a near tragedy being averted for the safety of a child is always a moment of gratitude. With all the horrors and accidents we see on the news, a rescue with a happy ending is cause for celebrating. It gave new meaning to the breath of life. One person literally giving breath to another until the other was able to breathe on his own.

Perhaps because of the Church’s Feast of Pentecost approaching, this story seems to be a metaphor for the coming of the Holy Spirit on all of us. On that first Pentecost, The Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire and a rushing wind on all who were gathered in the upper room. Jesus had suffered, died and risen from the dead. He then spent forty days among his followers. He walked with them, spoke to them, prepared food for them, and ate with them. He was real. They touched him and talked with him. But all the time he kept reminding them of what he had said at the Last Supper.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The friends of Jesus could not have understood what he was saying at the time he said these words to them. Then the arrest and crucifixion shocked them to their depths and plunged them into paralyzing fear and utter confusion. With the resurrection, hope returned. They still didn’t understand but they began to hope and believe again. Jesus led them out of their fears and helped strengthen them, but they still needed courage and wisdom. That was the task of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew they would be touched by God through the Spirit of God and they would then be changed utterly. Such is the power of the Spirit.

The spirit is the breath of God and the breath of life. Just as that man courageously gave the breath of life to the little boy until he could breathe again, so does the Holy Spirit breathe the breath of God into us until we begin to breathe on our own. Just as the boy’s life depended upon the breath of the man who was giving him his own breath, so also the Spirit breathes through us until we become the very breath of God. We not only breathe on our own but we breathe the life of the Spirit who breathed into us. There was no life for the little boy under water except for the breath of the man rescuing him. There is no life for us except for the breath of the Holy Spirit who is sustaining us and continually giving us life every moment of every day. This is Pentecost, not just a moveable feast, but a continual feast alive in each of us breath by breath.

Sister Patricia McCarthy currently teaches Math at a Catholic School. For many years she taught troubled children and victims of abuse.