I had quite the feisty temper when I was little and my mother would always tell me to take a deep breath before responding if my reaction could be hurtful or damaging. The power of that one breath was remarkable. There is so much strength in something as simple as taking a deep breath.
The Hebrew word for “breath” in the Old Testament was “Ruah”, also meaning “wind”, or “spirit”. However, “Ruah” was specifically understood to signify the “breath of God” that animates all of God’s living; a distinct presence of God that enables life to be.
“…concerning ruah, we can say that the breath of God appears in them as the power that gives life to creatures. It appears as a profound reality of God which works deep within man. It appears as a manifestation of God’s dynamism which is communicated to creatures.”
-St. Pope John Paul II
Humanity’s first recorded encounter with God’s “Ruah” is found during Creation: “then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). There are two other significant mentions of “Ruah” in Scripture. One is in today’s first reading, “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Listen! I will make breath enter you so you may come to life” (Ez. 37:5). The last is John 20, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit’” (Jn. 20:22).
The image that we have in the First Reading of dry bones being brought back to life is so powerful for us today. I look around at our society and communities and all I can see are dry bones, as far as the eye can see. We live in a time where human life is trampled upon, human dignity is not valued, and the transcendent and eternal realities of our faith have no bearing on the way people lead their lives. We were not created to simply go through the motions of our daily lives. We were created to have life, and life in abundance!! We are dry bones, parched for hope and for human connection, and we are in desperate need of a revival – a “ruah.”
But as I read the passage from Ezekiel again, I realize that the Lord is not the one reviving the bones, at least not directly. He is telling Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to say His words and give life to that which is dead.
That is the same call for us, brothers and sisters. The world around us is desperately crying out for hope, and it is up to us to breathe that Gospel message into those we encounter. Grace builds on human nature; God works in cooperation with our willingness to be His vessels. Just as Adam’s life came from the breath of God, and the dry bones were revived through Ezekiel, so also did the disciples’ new spiritual life come from Jesus through the Breath of the Holy Spirit. Through our Baptism, we were imparted with that same Spirit; that same life of Christ in our souls that enables us to live out our vocations of priest, prophet, and king. So with every breath within us, let us speak life.
“I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it” (Ez. 37:14).
Sarah Rose hails from Long Island and graduated from Franciscan University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Theology & Catechetics. She is happily married to her college sweetheart John Paul. They welcomed their first child, Judah Zion, in 2019. She is passionate about her big V-vocation: motherhood, and her little v-vocation: bringing people to encounter Christ through the true, the good, and the beautiful. She loves fictional novels, true crime podcasts/documentaries, the saints (especially Blessed Chiara Luce Badano), & sharing conversation over a good cup of coffee. She is currently the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at St. Cecilia Church in Oakley, Cincinnati. You can find out more about her ministry here: https://eastsidefaith.org/young-adult OR at https://www.facebook.com/stceciliayam.