We never think of it.
We usually don’t realize we are doing it.
But take a moment to realize that you are breathing.
Of all the great symbols we have for life there is none more true than breath. When we become aware of it we realize we are alive in a tangible way. Think about it – the second you stop breathing you die. It sounds super simple and you are thinking, “Of course if you stop breathing you die…” But hold your breath for a minute and feel how uncomfortable it is. To be deprived of oxygen is to be deprived of life.
At the end of John’s Gospel we find the disciples suffocating from fear in a room. They are huddled together for fear of suffering the same fate as Jesus they wait for someone to bust down the door and arrest them all. And somebody does come into the room – but no doors are broken. Jesus suddenly is there in their midst, and lest they think he is a ghost – he shows them his hands and sides as if to say “I am real, I am with you, don’t be afraid.” And he does, he just says it more succinctly, “Peace be with you.”
Then Jesus does something incredible – he breathes on them. The disciples who were only moments ago suffocating in fear are given new life in the breath from Christ. He gives them strength – he gives them the Holy Spirit. It is after this that they no longer suffocate in their room, but go out into the world to proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Just like God breathed life into Adam, so Christ breathes new life into his disciples.
Every week we come to Church to be fed, be nourished, to find community. I have heard people call it “the breath of fresh air in the week.” At Mass we proclaim through the Spirit that Jesus Christ is Lord, we receive his Body and Blood, and we are blessed and sent out into the world. But how many of us leave the building only to hold our breath again until next Sunday? How many of us leave and suffocate out in the world? We choke in our schools, offices, and sometimes in our families. How many of us are afraid of proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord? Why do we hide our beliefs from other people? How many of us suffocate by our actions? Do we live our lives as people proclaiming the Resurrection?
Or do we simply hold our breath, shut our mouths, say nothing and live like our lives aren’t made new in Jesus?If we went out into the world and just let ourselves breathe the same gospel we breathe inside the walls of our churches, the gospel that gives life instead of takes it, how much would our world change? If people simply lived the law of love, of Truth, and of forgiveness, what great obstacles could we overcome?
But until we can go forward with the new life Jesus breathes into us so we can breathe it out into the world, our world will continue to suffocate. We will continue to choke and gasp for air in our fears, in a locked room for fear of what the world would say if they knew we followed Jesus Christ.
As the disciples went out to preach boldly through the Spirit and change the world, our call is the same today. Because it is by our very breathing, that we can be the breath of the word out in our world, our school, our office, our lives. But until we do, our world will simply continue to suffocate searching for a breath of fresh air…and so will we.