Breath of God

For a long time, the Holy Ghost was known as “the forgotten Person of the Trinity.” Thanks to the Second Vatican Council and the movements it inspired (like the charismatic movement), the awareness of the Holy Spirit and his vital role in our Christian life has been reawakened. Christian living, in fact, can be summarized as “living in the Spirit.”

We learn from catechism that in baptism we have received the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, God lives in us and shares his life with us, making us his children. As God’s children, we are called to live God’s own life, that is, to live in the Spirit. What does it mean?

More than defining it, St. Paul describes this life vividly in his letters. He starts by telling what it is not. We do not live in the Spirit when our life is characterized by “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…” Instead, we live in the spirit when our life is filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control…” (Gal 5:19-23)

The feast of Pentecost is often considered the birthday of the Church. I’m not too sure if this is theologically accurate. What is more certain is that Pentecost is the birthday of the missionary Church. The first reading tells us that before the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were a disoriented and insecure band, holing themselves up in the cenacle for fear of the Jews. But when the Spirit descended on them, they came out of their hiding place and, filled with courage, they started to preach to peoples of different tongues.

Thus, they finally embarked on the mission to proclaim Christ to all nations. But more than an enabler of missionaries, the Holy Spirit is the primary agent of mission.

From another perspective, the gospel presents the Holy Spirit also as the content of the mission. When Jesus appeared to the apostles on the night of his resurrection, he told them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The mission of the resurrected Lord to his apostles was to pass on the Spirit he breathed on them to others.

We are all familiar with this verse, but if we read it more attentively, we cannot but be overwhelmed by its message. The Lord has breathed his Spirit on us, too. Now he sends us to breathe forth the same Spirit into the world. Our mission in life is to breathe on others the breath of God – a breath that brings freshness, serenity, joy and grace. Above all, it is a breath that brings love since the Holy Spirit is the very “love of God poured out into our hearts.” (Rm 5:5)*

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