9 June 2019
When in seminary, traveling around the city was always interesting. We used to joke – how many people can you fit on a Roman bus? … About 10 more! I have seen people pushing and shoving to get on and off the bus. One time my mother and grandmother were visiting we took the train to Florence. It was so crowded that we had to sit on our luggage and I had to sit in the doorway – where it says: “Do Not Sit Here.” The point is that when the buses and trains get so crowded personal space becomes non-existent! And when that crowded, inevitably people are going to breathe on you … and that can be quite unpleasant. When someone breathes on you the fear in us is that they will impart to you something of themselves, something inside them – sickness, a virus, germs, etc … again – unpleasant. There is that fear of “I don’t want whatever is in you to get into me.” Yet, this is precisely what Jesus does to the Apostles in the Gospel today – He breathes on them … He imparts to them that which is in Him – yet this is no virus, its not germs, it is His Spirit, His very life … Jesus breathes life into the Apostles.
There is no other way to interpret this passage of John’s gospel. The verb ‘to breathe’ is a direct reference to God breathing life into Adam in the Book of Genesis as well as the description of the breath of life in Ezekiel. Essentially the message is that the Spirit is a spirit of life and in the Apostles we have a new creation, a new life. And it is no accident that what follows is the commission – “as the Father sent me, so I send you.” So, what is the message? As Jesus breathes life into His disciples, so now they too are to breathe life into others.
This is precisely what happens to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation – Jesus breathes life into us… Yet, not just for our own sake but that we might be able to breathe life into others. And if you think you about it, in our world today we are surrounded by death. The recent school shootings, the shooting in Virginia Beach last weekend, the new proposed legislation in Massachusetts that would allow abortions up to the time of birth – a bill similar to that passed in NY and in legislation in RI. We have truly become a culture of death. How sad it is that a person can feel so isolated in the world to think that violence is the only way to solve their problems or that a pregnant mother’s only option is to abort her baby. Death is so violent and cruel. Those who suffer need people who will speaks to them words of life – the Spirit is the giver of life … we need people who speak words of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control … words of hope – I spoke last week of a responsibility toward one another, this is what I mean… No one should feel so alone that violence is their only option, that death is their only way out … Jesus tells His disciples that with the Spirit comes the responsibility of being a witness to His love and this means breathing life into others … showing them the way to Heart of the Savior. This is our common duty. I know how difficult this is especially since the Church is under attack, our credibility is weak… but now is not the time to jump ship, it is not the time to walk around with our tails between our legs … now is the time for us to speak words of life to others … and thus by way of word and example we show the world that the Church, that we as Catholics, we are a people of life …
Perhaps then we could say: How many people can you fit in Holy Family Church … about 10 more!