THE FIRE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus surprised his disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week” by appearing in their midst. Twice he says to them, “Peace be with you,” to calm their fears (and shame over having abandoned him in his time of testing). He showed them his wounds lest they think that he was a ghost.
Then Jesus gave the apostles a commission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” What had begun three years earlier with a call to
culminated in a sending out
. Their mission, our mission, is to be a continuation of Jesus' own until he returns in glory.
In the gospel accounts of Jesus’ companionship with these men, we have seen clear indications that he intended to give the apostles authority to build the Church and do his work. However, after commissioning them, Jesus does something unexpected, something unfamiliar to us in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic:
“He breathes on them and says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
Why did Jesus breathe on his apostles?
To understand this moment, so different from anything we have seen in any gospel account,
we have to go back to "the beginning, to the first time divinity breathed on humanity.
In the beginning, at creation, “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
There is no stronger image than this of God’s desire to impart his own life to us, we who are made in God’s image and likeness
Adam and Eve’s fall into sin robbed them (and us) of their inheritance as God’s children, but the entire story of salvation reveals God’s plan to restore and renew his life in us. So vivid is this image of God’s breath in man that it appears again at the time of the prophet Ezekiel. God’s people, Israel, were in exile in Babylon; they had been ravaged by their enemies as punishment for their covenant infidelity. They represent all of us who are spiritually dead and entirely helpless.
In his unrelenting determination to restore his people, God says to Ezekiel: “’Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O LORD God, only you know.’ Again God said, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD…Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live…and you shall know that I am the LORD’” (Ezekiel 36:3-6).
When we know this Old Testament history, Jesus breathing on the apostles on the day of the resurrection comes alive as an expression of God’s will. In this gesture, God begins the divinization of our human nature, always God’s intention for his children.
The renewal of humanity begins once again with the breath of God.
For the apostles, this action enabled them to truly be Jesus’ continuing presence on earth. They will forgive or retain sins, an action reserved to God alone. What about us? Will the breath of God blow on us, too?
The more we know of the imagery representing God in the Old Testament, the more we understand the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as an explosion of fulfilled promises! Think of the tongues of fire that rested over the apostles. They will now be God’s presence in the Church, leading the people on their journey home to heaven. To this day, the bishops of the Church, who are the successors of the apostles, wear miters in the shape of a flame of fire.
What about the effects of all this amazing action? The apostles were able to communicate the Gospel in the many languages of the Jews assembled in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost. All are able to hear, each in his or her own language, the mighty works of God. Now, in the fullness of time, God grants us the solidarity for which we long, but which he cannot naturally achieve. The Holy Spirit creates this solidarity.
El Evangelio de hoy nos dice que Jesús sorprendió a los discípulos "en la tarde del primer día de la semana" al aparecer en medio de ellos. Dos veces les dice: "La paz sea con ustedes", para calmar sus temores. Les mostró sus heridas, para que no pensaran que era un fantasma.
Entonces, Jesús les dio a los apóstoles una comisión: "Como el Padre me ha enviado, yo también los envío a ustedes". Lo que había comenzado tres años antes con un llamado a "Sígueme" (Mt 4:19) culminó en un envío. Su misión, nuestra misión, es ser una continuación de la suya hasta que regrese en gloria.
En los relatos evangélicos de la compañía de Jesús con estos hombres, hemos visto claros indicios de que tenía la intención de dar a los apóstoles la autoridad para construir su Iglesia y hacer su trabajo. Sin embargo, después de comisionarlos, Jesús hace algo inesperado, desconocido: "Él respira sobre ellos y dice: 'Recibe el Espíritu Santo.'"
¿Por qué Jesús respiró sobre sus apóstoles?
Para entender este momento, tan diferente de todo lo que hemos visto en cualquier relato del Evangelio, tenemos que volver al principio, a la primera vez que la divinidad respiró sobre la humanidad. En la creación, "el Señor Dios formó al hombre del polvo de la tierra, y sopló en su nariz el aliento de vida, y el hombre se convirtió en un ser vivo" (Génesis 2:7). No hay una imagen más clara que esta del deseo de Dios de impartirnos su propia vida, nosotros, los que estamos hechos a imagen y semejanza de Dios.
La caída de Adán y Eva en el pecado les robó (y a nosotros) su herencia como hijos de Dios, pero toda la historia de la salvación revela el plan de Dios para restaurar y renovar su vida en nosotros.
Cuando conocemos esta historia del Antiguo Testamento, Jesús respirando sobre los apóstoles en el Día de la Resurrección cobra vida como expresión de la voluntad de Dios. En este gesto, Dios comienza la divinización de nuestra naturaleza humana, siempre la intención de Dios para sus hijos. La renovación de la humanidad comienza, una vez más, con el aliento de Dios. Para los apóstoles, esta acción les permitió ser verdaderamente la presencia continua de Jesús en el mundo.
Churches in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, including St. Joseph's Downtown, reopened Tuesday, May 19,
with the usual schedule of weekday and weekend Masses, sacraments, and ministry. We will practice social distancing and you are asked to use a face mask to keep everyone safe and healthy.
video of Sunday Mass at St. Joseph
is posted on YouTube at the St. Joseph Church Downtown Media page starting this weekend. We thank the Strelchun Family and John Francis for filming and editing the video so beautifully. Visit the St. Joseph Media (Downtown) page on YouTube. Mass for each Sunday and major feasts will be recorded.
Please pray for St. Joseph's former pastor, Fr. Mario Marzocchi, SSS,
who is recovering from a serious infection and facing other health issues in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. His mailing address is: Regina Health Center; 5232 Broadview Road; Richfield, OH 44286.
In a spirit of caring for each other in these difficult days,
we encourage you to support efforts to feed our neighbors in need via Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and local food banks.
Thank you for supporting St. Joseph Downtown
through our parish website (
) or Give Central (
Anthony Schueller SSS
on Sunday, May 31 at 3:57PM