The Air We Breathe

This week's reflection is written by
Mr. Joseph McDaniel, OSFS, seminarian.

Air. We breathe it. We exhale it. It gives us life, and when it leaves us for the last time, we die.

It envelopes us always but remains invisible. We are seldom aware or conscious of it, but without it, our embodied thinking would soon cease.

It rarely dominates any of our senses yet remains accessible to all of them. The crispness of a winter wind on our skin, or the dampness of a humid summer breeze. The gentle echo this makes while it rustles through the leaves of a tree, or the terrifying howl of a coastal gale. The inviting perfume of a freshly cut lawn, or the jarring odor of a rubbish heap. A calm mist over a glassy sea, or a whirling vortex over a desert.


It is no wonder that the image of wind is frequently used in the scriptures to describe the presence of God. At creation, the Spirit of God is described as a mighty wind, ruah, hovering over the waters, bringing light from darkness and order from chaos. At Pentecost, the coming of this same Spirit of the new creation is harkened by driving wind and tongues of fire.

Just as air is a source of our physical life, always present, rarely noticed, but perceptible in any form where we choose to pay attention, so is our God the source of the fullness of life.

It is often in times of change, such as between weather patterns and seasons, where we awake to the presence of the air we breathe, and it is also in times of change that we can awake to the presence of God.

Events such as graduations, changing jobs, and moving homes can often leave us feeling like we are in a void, in-between space, like lungs that have exhaled the old air but are still awaiting the enlivening influx of the new. But just as air rushes to fill in any void, so too will the Spirit of God, if we open our nostrils, our mouth, our pores, and every other crevasse of our being to his always present love. As mouth-to-mouth respiration from an emergency rescuer can save a life in precarious situation, we live each moment by heart-to-heart respiration from an encounter with our God.

Over this past week of change for our community, we Oblates have felt and known the mighty peaceful wind, the Spirit of God moving among as we’ve gathered, prayed, and discerned together at our annual convocation to reflect on the direction of our community and call forth new provincial leadership. As we walk forward together, may all of us be open to that same Spirit of God moving and breathing in the changes of our lives.

*This reflection was inspired by a homily given by Fr. Geoff Rose, OSFS, at Salesian Leadership Camp 2018 in Brooklyn, MI.