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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit

As Close as Our Breath

Sunday, May 28, 2023

On this Feast of Pentecost, Father Richard reminds us that the Holy Spirit is as near to us as our own breath:   

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21–22).  

God has been trying through all of history to give away God. Jesus shows us that the gift is free and totally available, as available as our breath. It seems that God has a hard time giving away God, however, because most of us aren’t interested. We’re interested in other things: money and power and success and good looks and politics. It takes a long time to get around to the one thing we were created for.   

If you’ve ever ridden on the subways in London, before the doors open and you get out of the train, they say, “Mind the gap.” When the doors open, it’s written in big words in front of every door: “Mind the gap.” It means, of course, that there are a few inches between the doors and the sidewalk, and they don’t want anyone to fall in that gap.   

In teaching on the Holy Spirit, what we need to do is “mind the gap”—because the Holy Spirit fills the gaps of everything. First, we need to be aware that there usually is a gap. There’s a space because we don’t recognize that God is as available to us as our breath. We always allow God, by our own silliness and stupidity, to be distant, to be elsewhere. We always find a gap between ourselves and our neighbor, between ourselves and almost everything. We therefore feel quite lonely and isolated in this world. Without some awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence, frankly, we’re not connected to anything or anybody. We just live an isolated life.   

The Holy Spirit within us is the desire inside all of us that wants to keep connecting, relating, and communing. It isn’t above us. It isn’t beyond us—it is within us. It’s as available as our breath, and that’s why the Risen Christ gives the Holy Spirit by breathing upon the disciples. He’s saying, in effect, “Here it is! Here it is! Can you breathe in what I have breathed out?” 

As we grow on the journey, we’ll begin to experience that breath, that Spirit, as if it is the very air. It’s everywhere, all the time, and we can’t live one minute without it. Isn’t it amazing that air, the thing that’s most essential, most invisible to most people is the one thing that’s everywhere all the time and free? The Holy Spirit likewise has been given to us freely.   


Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Pentecost Sunday: The Divine Sparkplug,” homily, May 15, 2016.  

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Jenna Keiper, Jenna Keiper, Izzy Spitz. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’ve gradually learned a new (for me) way to pray the Our Father that I would like to share: “Our Father, who are in heaven and whose essence permeates every molecule in the universe, Holy are all Your Names! May your kingdom come, may Your will be done throughout the universe as it already is in Heaven. Please give each of us humans, plants, drops of water, pieces of the earth, sea creatures, creatures of the air, and all animals what we need for this day for our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits. Please forgive us our sins, and help us forgive ourselves, those who trigger us, or sin against us, or sin against people we love, or sin against any vulnerable person, and please protect us from being seduced be temptations, but deliver us from evil in all its forms, for yours is the only kingdom I want and You are deserving of all my faith, awe, respect and love now and forever, Amen.” I am so grateful God guided me to the CAC, it is changing my life. —Mary W. 

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