by Ken Rolheiser
The absence of wind and our time of life

A leaf hangs motionless, scarcely attached. It trembles so slightly, barely perceptible. Then, detached, it tilts downward and begins its descent, moving left and right ever so slightly as to not care about left or right or the up and down of this dimension.

Such a peaceful letting go we might wish for when our time on earth is done. When my father stopped breathing it was that peaceful. There was only silence. I was blessed to be present.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer. (Psalm 103:15-16).

I remember a windy hot summer day in childhood when several of my brothers and I were on a prairie hillside. My oldest brother took some twenty-dollar bills and let them fly in the wind. We chased them down anxiously, fearing they would be lost.

Maybe the lesson was that money is not important in time and eternity. A song comes to mind:

Once there were trees and a river
Once there was grass where you stand
Once there were songs
About rights instead of wrongs
Once was the time of man (The Limelighters, “The Time of Man”).

We are like the grass. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away. (Psalm 90:6). 

Time is short. Tick goes the clock. Tick Tick. What you must do, do quick. 

The breath of the Lord is life! In Hebrew the word ruach means wind, breath and Spirit. In creation God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7).

God’s breath created life. Breathe and you experience life. When the breath is within you it becomes Spirit. Through Baptism we become temples of the Holy Spirit. God lives within us. This is most true in the Eucharist, the bread of life.

When we think about dying and judgement, are we afraid? In my front entrance I have a plaque that says Fürhte dich nicht, denn ich habe dich erlöst! Which means: Fear not, I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 43:1)

Christ came to reveal the Father’s love for us. As we learn of this love, we are attracted to a lifestyle that is less indulgent and more disciplined, more giving. We want to become worthy of so great a love.

The Book of Psalms concludes with Psalm 150: Let everything that breathes praise Yahweh. Alleluia! 

After his resurrection Jesus greeted his disciples with: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).

We need the breath of God in us, the breath of the Holy Spirit in us, to truly live in the overpowering joy of the psalms. For the Holy Spirit’s presence I will praise the LORD!

Pious platitudes are easy when we draw our breath free from pain. But what about times of suffering? 

St Paul explains: We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. …God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).

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