PENTECOST : Breath, Wind, Fire

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Spiritual Reflections by Fr Roderick Salazar SVD

In the beginning, He was there,
says Genesis, when as yet the earth
was without form and shape, with darkness
over the abyss. He was there:
a MIGHTY WIND sweeping over the waters.

He was there when God said,
“Let there be light” – and there was light.
For to SAY anything — here, the WORD,
is to use BREATH, WIND, AIR.

So All Three Divine Persons were there
at the dawn of creation.
The Father, The Word, The Spirit.

In the Word’s beginning as man, He was there,
as the angel Gabriel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit
will come upon you, and the power of the Most
High will overshadow you. Therefore, the Child
to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.”

He was there, filling Jesus in the desert and
from the desert to Galilee, to the synagogue in
Nazareth, assuring Jesus ‘The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me because He has anointed me to bring
good news to the poor.’

He was there at the Last Supper, promised by
Jesus to His disciples as the Advocate, the Spirit
of Truth who would guide them to all truth.

He was there at Pentecost appearing as tongues
of fire on the disciples as they prayed with Mary,
filling them with Himself, enabling them to speak
in tongues they did not originally know but given
the power to speak to proclaim the mighty acts
of God.

If I believe in Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him as
My Lord and Savior not just once but consistently
in my life, it is by His power. For as Paul says,
“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’

Today, Pentecost Sunday, I give special honor
and worship to the Holy Spirit. Where I can, I will
wear Red to relate to the ardent fire of His might.

But I must remember that He does not always
come as He is pictured in the Acts of the Apostles,
with the sound of a great wind and as tongues of fire.

Especially with the Easter season concluding at the
end of the day, at Vespers, and the liturgical season
of the Catholic Church returning to what is called the
ORDINARY TIME of the year, I must take note of the
OTHER way, the Spirit comes.

Soft as a whisper, calm as my breath, mute as the
night breeze kissing the trees does He also come.

I must then be alert, be open to Him ready to say
Come Holy Spirit, fill the heart of Your faithful, and
enkindle in me the fire of Your love.

I pray that those who read the Gospel for Pentecost,
John 20:19-23,will pay special attention to the text
and read it carefully, meditatively, with love. One must
not hurry on to the homily but read the Gospel first.
The Homily is meant to explain the Gospel. It is NOT
the Gospel itself. So one has to take as much time
even greater — reading and practicing to read the Gospel
properly especially when one reads it publicly.

In the Pentecost Gospel from John, Jesus appears to His
disciples who had locked the doors because they were
afraid of the Jews. Jesus appears to them and says
twice Peace be with you. He is encouraging them.
He wants them to be His witnesses. They cannot be so
if they are scared.

Just before Jesus tells them the second “Peace be with you”
He does something that NO ONE MUST MISS.
He is giving them THE HOLY SPIRIT but in a quiet way.

John uses the verb “BREATHED”.
“He BREATHED on them and said, “Receive…

In English, as we know, BREATH is a noun.
It does not have the letter E at the end.
But the verb BREATHE has the letter E.

The noun is pronounced with a short E, open,
and sounds like BREAD (except for the end consonant)

The verb is pronounced with a long E, and sounds
like BREED except for the final consonant.

John purposely uses the verb BREATHED before
he quotes Jesus saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”
because here the Spirit is given quietly but as
importantly as BREATH which is the sign of life.

Jesus EXHALED, I imagine, individually on each
disciple so that each is given the Spirit particularly
just as in the Acts of the Apostles, the tongues of
fire appeared on the heads of each disciple.

I risk being called “overacting” if in reading the verb
I purposely make the sound of exhaling: HAAAAAH.

But that is how I imagine the Gospel scene.
It brings back the image of God creating man in
the second chapter of Genesis where God is described
as “forming the man out of the dust of the ground
and BLEW into his nostrils the BREATH OF LIFE,
and the man became a living being. (Gen 2, 7)

In Ezekiel 37,1-14, through God’s power, dry human
bones in the valley are put together and flesh comes
over them but they need BREATH to make them
living beings once more.

I pray that readers and hearers of the Gospel from
John on Pentecost Sunday, do not gloss over that
precious verb for it is the quiet way of receiving the
Holy Spirit other than the tongues of fire.

BREATH. WIND. FIRE. Some forms of the Spirit.

In whatever form He comes to me, I pray I am ready
to receive Him. To Him I sing:

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

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