Jesus Our Shepherd

Homily for 04 June 2006
Jean Scanlan

He breathed on them. – If you were John, the beloved disciple, how would you put into mere words the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit of Jesus. We know from reading the four Gospels that often the apostles did not understand the words and actions of Jesus. They were confused. Although Jesus told them he would die and rise they did not know what that meant. They were led step by step, day by day walking with Jesus, listening to his teaching and observing the compassion he exhibited toward the blind man, the leper, the child who had died and many intimate moments with him of which we have no written record. Yet with all of that direct closeness with Jesus they run away in fear in the Garden of Gethsemane and one even betrays him with a kiss.

But “He breathed on them”. Early on the first day of the week Jesus appeared to Mary of Magdala and told her to go and tell his brothers that he is ascending. That very evening the disciples (a larger group than the apostles) were locked in the room for fear of the Jews. Jesus just appears with the words “Peace be with you” and he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

He breathed on them – breath – the Life Force without which we will die. Jesus shares his life force with us and we are transformed.

Recently through Fr. Jerry’s talks on Evolutionary theology and the discussions generated by those ideas we have been exposed to a new vision of the Holy Spirit. Diarmuid O’Murchu in his book “Evolutionary Faith” takes the presence of this Holy Spirit back to the creation of the cosmos. I quote: “…god’s presence in our history and in the evolution of creation at large is that of a Spirit-power, wisely shaping and forming the interconnected web of relationships that holds everything in being. The divine is first and foremost a wisdom-force, forging unceasingly the relationships that sustain and enhance life.” This wisdom-force or Spirit-power was present at the birth of the stars billions of years ago.

In Jesus we see what the invisible Spirit looks like. The love of the Divine is radiantly present in Jesus – in all he says and does. When he breaths on his friends/his disciples He intimately passes on His Spirit so that Jesus becomes present to every culture and every age. The Spirit of Jesus – the Spirit which gave wisdom and order in chaos throughout billions of years of evolution – that Holy Spirit is given with prodigious liberality to women as well as men, to black and white and every color in between, to young and old, north, south, east and west on our globe. Every place where love lives, where compassion is shared, where bread is broken and given – there is the Spirit whom we call “Holy”.

The great scripture scholar Ray Brown says, “In an essential way we are as close to Jesus as His disciples.”

How could it be that Jesus would say, “As the Father sent me so I send you?”

He breathed on them –
Receive the Holy Spirit
Peace be with you.

When we go to the table to receive Jesus today let us ask him to BREATH ON US and to feel the peace which comes from the very Spirit of Jesus. Like the disciples may we be transformed

From a place of darkness to walking in the Light of God’s love.