Today we celebrate the "birthday of the Church!" Pentecost is described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. But before the great driving wind and tongues of fire empowering the Disciples, the Holy Spirit had already arrived. The Gospel for today's Mass during the day is from John 20. Jesus appears to the fearful disciples after his resurrection. He first speaks a message of calm. "Peace be with you." The apostles "rejoiced when they saw the Lord." When the enthusiastic response settles down, Jesus "breathed on them and said to them 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
This action is Trinitarian, and it has happened before. If you turn your Bible back to the beginning, you'll read: "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so many became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). In the Garden of Eden, we see God's first, original covenant with man. The breath of life signifies that original indwelling of grace, the special state of likeness and friendship with God before the Fall. Here now, in this locked room, the Apostles receive the long-awaited promise: the very breath of God, new life, a new covenant.
In the pairing of these two readings-the Pentecost experience in Acts and the breath of Jesus in John's Gospel -we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit is not only an empowering, it is an indwelling. We have each received the breath of grace in our baptism. It is confirmed, strengthened, and deepened in each reception of the sacraments. If we persevere in virtue, the Spirit of God is alive in us, inspiring our actions of love. This Pentecost Sunday, how is the breath of God alive in you?