Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Breath of Life

February 9, 2011
Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens - while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground – the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. (Genesis 2:4b-7)

If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104:29b-30)

“What comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:20-23)

Abba, Abba Father, you are the potter, we are the clay, the work of your hands. (from Abba! Father by Carey Landry)

I love the imagery of this creation story. I can just picture God reaching his hands down to his newly created earth, scooping up a handful of dirt and fashioning himself a mudpie person. Then I see him looking lovingly at what he is holding in his hands. Finally, God leans over and completes what he has set out to do. He gently blows into his new creature the breath of life, God’s very spirit. To be created in the image of God is to be filled with the spirit of God.

In the psalm, a hymn to creation, the psalmist directly links the creation of human life and the renewal of all creation with God sending forth his spirit. Without that life-giving breath, we perish and return to the earth from which we came.

Knowing this, how is it that we don’t fall on our knees and thank God every day for creating us and sustaining us with his life-giving spirit? Knowing that God has breathed life into every human being, how can we not respect all human life? How can we not care for the needs of our brothers and sisters?

The answer to each of those questions is short and succinct – sin. The portion of the creation story in today’s reading from the Book of Genesis stops short of the account of the creation of a female companion for that first man and the story of their fall together into sin, but in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus talks about sin and the power it holds over our hearts. We who should be filled with love for God and God’s creation are instead sometimes twisted by a distorted sense of self-importance. When we become our own little gods, then all the evils Jesus mentions become possible. When we are the centers of our own universes, we can be jealous and envious of others, their possessions or good fortune. When we see ourselves as more important than anyone else, including God, then we can be filled with evil thoughts, which sometimes lead to evil deeds.

When I reflect on all this, there is often quite a disparity between what God has breathed into each of us and what comes out of us in return.

When you have a chance tonight, think about all the people who crossed your path today. Were you able to see the likeness of God in any of them, because, after all, we are all created in God’s image? When others look at you, what do you think they see? Take time to thank God for the gift of your life and, where you think God’s image in you might be obscured by sin, ask God for forgiveness and grace to live more fully as his spirit-filled child.