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Homily for Pentecost Sunday 2014

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The disciples were cringing behind locked doors and they had good reason to do so. They had seen the Lord executed in the most brutal possible way and they had every reason to believe that they may be next cab off the rank. I don’t blame them for locking the door and cringing behind the locked door. Then we are told, and this is the story of this moment that we call Pentecost, Jesus simply appears in their midst. At first they thought he was a ghost but then they realised that he wasn’t. They could see him, they could hear him, they could even touch him. He was a body but of some new and wondrous kind. He could simply walk through locked doors, they just don’t keep him out.

Here he is then, the risen Christ, and we are told he breathes on them, which seems an odd thing to do unless you understand the roots of this divine breathing. The first time we hear the breath of God is on the very first page of scripture when we are told the breath of God, the spirit of God, moved over the waters of chaos in the primeval darkness. From that breathing there comes the word ‘life’ and there was light. This is the breath that brings light from darkness. The next time we meet the breath of God is on the second page of scripture where God is walking through His garden, His paradise. He looks down and he sees a wonderfully rich lump of the earth he has created. He picks up that lump of soil and then he breathes into it. This time what we get is us. The human being. A lump of earth bearing the breath of God.

Now we find Jesus following suite as he breathes on these disciples cringing behind closed doors because they were afraid. They were terrified. This time the divine breathing, the spirit of God, turns fear into something quite different. The doors are cast open and these cringing disciples become those who go out into the streets, not only of Jerusalem but of the world to do the very thing that would cost them their life in the end, and that is to speak to the world of the good news that they have met in Jesus Christ crucified but risen. They’ve seen him; they’ve heard him and they speak to the world of the one who they’ve seen and heard but it all depends upon the breath. If the breath is not there then the darkness remains. If the breath is not there then the clod of earth is just a clod of dirt. If the breath is not there then the disciples just cringe behind locked doors in a room that becomes a tomb, because fear is death.

Here today on this feast of Pentecost the same Jesus breathes the same divine breath upon a church that, without the breath of God, is just a corpse. All a corpse can do is putrefy, but if the breathe of God is breathed into us and becomes our life, then we can become the Body of Christ, radiant with the life which is bigger than death. Here today as well, Christ himself breathes into ten of our brothers and sisters as they come for confirmation. It’s like mouth to mouth resuscitation. What does mouth to mouth resuscitation do? It draws someone from death back to life. It is the same with us, it is the same with those who we confirm in this moment. They, like us, bring their darkness. They, like us, bring their fears, and into this cathedral this day we gather all the darkness and fears of the church, and we allow Christ to breathe into us precisely at that point. If he does then his words will have power in the life of the church and in the life of each of us. What are the words that he speaks as he walks through the locked door? “Peace be with you”.

These will be the words of Christ which I will speak to the newly confirmed, as I did at the start of Mass. “Peace be with you” says the risen Christ. What he means is that “in going to my death I have gone to the very depths of human destitution. I have been to the bedrock of darkness, the very heart of it. I have seen the worst and you have nothing to fear.” Your fears are in fact a bluff and once you understand that then of course all the locked doors are cast open. The room is no longer a tomb but becomes the womb of mission. So to those we confirm, we speak the words that we ourselves have heard, “Peace be with you,” on the journey of life. The peace which the world cannot give but which the risen Christ does give. We allow Christ to once again to speak to the heart of the church which is his body. The words of resurrection that have echoed through these 50 days of the Easter festival. Peace be with you. Amen.

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