Receive the Holy Spirit
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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."Sarah Dylan Breuer writes of this reading at her blog Sarah Laughed saying,
In John 14, Jesus promises the Spirit that he breathes upon them in John 20, and which comes upon the believers gathered to observe Pentecost in Acts 2. As Christians, we celebrate at Pentecost the coming of this Holy Spirit.Her full essay is online here: Day of Pentecost.
That statement doesn't have a lot of content for a lot of people, though. Coming on the eve of release for Star Wars' Episode III, we might be tempted to think of the Spirit Jesus promises as being like “the Force” that Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars describes impersonally as “an energy field created by all living things” that “surrounds us and penetrates us,” a mysterious phenomenon that gives those very few who can perceive and channel it hidden powers, as well as the temptation to become rulers of the galaxy.
But in John, the Spirit is described in far more personal terms. In John 14:16, the Spirit is an “advocate,” a term for a person who defends others. And John particularly emphasizes that the Spirit Jesus sends is “the Truthful Spirit” (14:17, 15:26, and 16:13 -- I go with Malina and Rohrbaugh in that rendering of the phrase usually rendered as “Spirit of Truth”), a phrase that describes someone with nothing to hide, a person whose character is fully manifest. “Truth” (aletheia—with the 'e' being an eta) can also mean “reality”; a truthful person is one who makes what's real manifest for any to see.
If we look at what the Spirit does, not only in John, but in Luke's (the NT author, not the Skywalker) and Paul's works, that seems an apt description. The Spirit manifests and makes visible in the community of Jesus' followers, the Body of Christ (to use one of Paul's favorite images) what is really the case, what God is doing in the world. If a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of God's grace, you might say that the Spirit is what makes sacramental living possible, who makes the Body of Christ an outward and visible sign to the world of what God's grace is accomplishing.
Labels: Gospel reading