Once upon a time, a visiting priest went to an unfamiliar church to celebrate the Eucharist. There was a microphone on the altar and as he was uncertain whether it was switched on or not he tapped it gently. Then leaning very close to it he breathed into the microphone and whispered, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There is something wrong with this microphone.” The well-trained and always responsive congregation, very familiar with the very latest in liturgical language, replied at once, “And also with you.”
On the evening of the Resurrection, Jesus breathes on them and says: “Take hold of the Holy Spirit.” Now, it takes them about fifty days to take hold of that Holy Spirit. And when the Spirit descends, Christ forms his Church. The disciples speak a new language of love for friend and foe. Even though they too would experience the cross, it is the Spirit who refreshes and revitalizes them.
But how can we build anything refreshing when many times the only breath we smell is the bad breath of sin? We read about the stench of greed of some on Wall Street. We walk and swim in the sin of some irresponsible oil companies. We turn around and behold the garbage of some of the leaders of the Catholic Church with child abuse. We ponder the dirt of incidences of murder in Chicago streets when police and people are gunned down in front of their own homes. We hold our noses when we have to listen to vitriolic political speeches. On this Pentecost Day, how do we Christians respond to these situations that take the refreshing, renewing and revitalizing breath of Christ and turn it into a horrible cesspool?
It depends. If we want to feel the refreshing breath of Christ it depends on how we confront sin. On that evening of Easter, Christ gives us the Holy Spirit. But also the Christ gives us a great commission. On one hand you and I as Church have the power to free people from sin. Many people hang onto anger, revenge and resentment. Some people do not know how to forgive; they do not know how to let go of debts owed them. That is where you and I come in as Christians. If you and I are aware of the Breath of God in our lives…our ears will resonate…our hearts will listen…our minds will know that someone needs our spiritual help to forgive sin. The problem is that we do not know how to forgive sin. Forgiving sin according to St. John means to send away the sin. Do not hold it back…do not judge and do not hang onto it.
To illustrate- Pretend you are on vacation. You come out of your hotel room and head down to the pool for a great time of relaxation. And when you arrive you do not behold a placid body of water but a crowd of teenagers yelling and swimming all over the place. Such was the case in Minnesota when the concert choir for the Stillwater-area high schools were in competition and stayed at a local hotel. Usually people would cringe at such a scene. No one wants to be around loud teenagers let alone a pool filled with them. But these people were different. As soon as some of the choir members discovered that the pool building had perfect acoustics, some began to sing. Before you knew it, the entire room of teenagers, those in the water and those at the pool chairs and tables joined in signing the hymn, “O Day Full of Grace,” by F. Melius Christensen.
O day full of grace which we behold,
Now gently to view ascending,
Thou over the earth thy reign unfold,
Good cheer to all mortals lending,
That children of light in every clime
May prove that the night is ending.
When the choir got to the last verse, those in the pool formed a large circle, held hands and they sang: With joy we depart for the promised land, And there we shall walk in endless light. Needless to say, the adults in the room gave them a standing ovation and later called the front desk to compliment the Stillwater-area high schools concert choir.
Breathe on us, O Christ, and assist us in taking hold of the Holy Spirit. Breathe on us, O Christ and transform us into the image of the Creator! In the words of St. Paul, we cannot say, “Jesus is Lord,” unless we are in the Spirit. And when we are in the Spirit, we send away sin. We help people to send away resentment and anger. We refuse to judge another person.
As we gather for the Eucharist on this fiftieth day of Easter, may you and I feel the breath of Christ! As we enter into the Eucharistic Prayer, may we feel the breath of Christ! As we receive communion together, may we feel the breath of Christ! As we sing and pray and walk with each other, may we feel the breath of Christ! And when it is our last hour, may we become feathers upon the breath of Christ! Amen! Alleluia!
Pentecost 2015 ~
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.