Peace before fire
As the risen Jesus shows the fearful disciples his hands and his side he is showing them how the Spirit is present in death and life. By following Jesus in his way of suffering and joy they too will share life of the Father to the world.
Doublets, repetition or parallelism are some of the most basic ways that the scriptures draw us to what is important. More than just rhyming, thematic repetition invites us to explore what is different in the same old.
Jesus showing his wounded hands and side is framed by the repetition of “peace be with you” (Jn 20:19-21). The fear of the disciples then turns to joy as Jesus breathes on them saying “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22). This breathing forms the doublet with Genesis 2:7 where God breathed into Adam the breath of life, who then became a living being. What Jesus breathes into the disciples is what changes their fear into joy, the Spirit of the Father.
Our breathing is affected by our moods, particularly fear and anxiety. When we are chronically nervous we hyperventilate which over time changes the chemical balance of our body. We need Oxygen to be at peace but we also need Carbon Dioxide to be at peace.
When we hyperventilate the alkaline/acid balance of our body changes resulting in higher alkalinity. The result is a constriction of blood vessels throughout the brain and body. Alkalinity causes excess calcium to enter nerve tissue making it hyperactive which we experience as muscle tension. Finally, excess alkalinity causes over excitability in the nervous system which can result in impulsiveness and overreaction. By gently waiting a slight moment before gulping another breath we can reset our breath. This slight waiting, not holding, may feel like a brush with death. But integrating this little death permits a new and deeper breathing to emerge which reverses the imbalance of hyperventilation.
Carbon dioxide balances our body in the same way that sacrifice balances our lives.
In the proper ratio both oxygen and carbon dioxide keep us balanced, healthy and whole, in other words: at peace. As the risen Jesus shows the fearful disciples his hands and his side he is showing them how the Spirit is present in death and life. By following Jesus in his way of suffering and joy they too will share life of the Father to the world.
The death we feel in a potential vocation to religious life or priesthood will yield new joy in due time. The death we feel in having to stop our activity to spend time in prayer will give new fruitfulness. The death we feel in leaving something we have started for someone else to finish can give us new liberation.
The proper balance of sacrifice and joy in our lives is shown in a burning away of our fear, anxiety and terror. As we articulate this experience to others in a language that they can understand the fire of God’s love spreads to their hearts too.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocations Director – OMI Lacombe Canada
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at email@example.com to arrange for an appointment.