Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
This isn’t the first time Jesus has uttered this greeting.
“Peace be with you,” is the fulfillment of a promise Jesus made to his disciples earlier in John’s Gospel. When the disciples were afraid that they would be “orphaned” Jesus assured them that the Father, would send the Holy Spirit to both “teach and remind” them of Jesus’ message. Then he promised them peace.
In the biblical world, breath is a manifestation of God’s Spirit: God breathes over the waters and the universe takes form; God revives dry bones in a valley; and the Psalmist proclaims, “Let everything that breathes praise God.” The Holy Spirit moved through Jerusalem on Pentecost and gave birth to a new manifestation of the Jesus movement, the church. God’s Spirit still breathes through us as the source of spiritual vitality to minister to others and achieve God’s vision in our time.
Breathing is something we take for granted, until we can’t, or our breathing becomes labored or impaired in some way. Back in December I had many of the symptoms of corona virus, a low grade fever, shortness of breath and getting extremely tired even when I had not expended much energy. I went to the doctor who tested me for corona virus, and the results were negative. However a lung x-ray indicated that I had walking pneumonia. He prescribed antibiotics for a week and all the symptoms went away.
It took about a month for me to recover deep breathing again and get back my energy. As a result, I found myself paying closer attention to my breathing. For a time I practiced taking deep breaths several times a day, and then I began to pray with every deep breath that my suffering might soon leave me and I could return to a more normal life.
Perhaps you and I need to take time to breathe, inhaling and exhaling deeply, and praying with each breath. Simply breathing our prayers has been shown, according to medical studies, to reduce stress and enhance immune system functioning. It also awakens our connection with creation, that breathes in, around, and through us.
When we breathe in God’s Spirit, we can hear Jesus say to us as he breathes in us, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Then in return, we can confirm that we, breathe God’s Spirit in, and share God’s energy of love with others. Why not try it for a month and see what deep breathing and praying together does for your spiritual life?
- How many days do you go about your activities and not even notice your breathing?
- How often is the Spirit of Life actually moving in and around you and you haven’t paused long enough to notice it?
- How can you incorporate praying with deep breathing throughout your day and see how the Spirit of God fills you and leads you in God’s Peace?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.