“he breathed on them…”
Jesus breathed on them. Eww. Who does that?
It’s an interesting scene to imagine. Jesus had spent roughly three years with this group of people, wandering the countryside and towns of Judea, preaching, teaching, healing all sorts of people. He had taught some pretty odd things, and yet his presence had commanded that they be taken with absolute seriousness.
They had seen him arrested, tortured, and crucified, then, in the midst of their grief he had risen from the dead, and had begun to appear to this rag-tag group of people who had left everything to follow him three years earlier.
Now, he appears in the room where they had gathered. The room was locked, and yet here he is, standing among them. This is all a bit overwhelming, but they had seen a fair bit of this over the last few weeks – Jesus, their mate who died a public a gory death has appeared to them a number of times of late, each time doing some pretty incredible things. He greets them, and says ‘Peace be with you’, and then he breathes on them. My natural reaction is one of disgust: Who goes around breathing on people?
When he breathes on them he says ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’ This is something profound.
We often think of the spirit as some supra-physical reality, but here we see that its communication is deeply incarnational, not unlike some of Jesus’s other miraculous actions (ie. making a mud pie out of dirt and spit and smooshing it into a blind bloke’s eyes, see Jn 9:1-12).
His breath, the very physicality of it should remind us that the faith is an earthy, fleshy reality. It is not an escape from this world, but a mission to sanctify it.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Veni Sancte Spiritus Veni per Mariam
Come Holy Spirit, Come through Mary