The Breath of Life

The first reading today continues in the Book of Genesis where we read: “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…”

When this passage comes up in daily Mass or in Bible Study, I will oftentimes ask people to pantomime the scene playing the role of God. With a little encouragement someone rises, comes to the front, and does their best to enact the scene. They will gracefully bend to the earth to scoop up some dirt/dust from the ground. Then carefully cupping the raw materials, they will dramatically breath a puff of breath, then with a dramatic flair, motion with their hands as to display the created human. Work completed, they bid adieu to their creation and return to their seats engulfed by applause for their very fine performance.

When I asked the same pantomime from the youth group in Kenya, the results were a little bit different. A young lady came forward and began the pantomime gathering dirt into the cup of her hands. Then she blew her breath into her hands, made a similar motion so as to display the created human, but one thing was very different. The young lady continued to follow the creation and continued to blow/breathe upon the creation, neve letting the creation be far away.  At the point she ran out of breath, she too returned to her seat amidst sustained applause.

When I asked about the sustained, continued breath from God into the creation, she replied (to the effect), “It is the breath of God that gives life and sustains life. Without the breath of God, surely we are doomed to die. And to refuse to pass on life to the next generation, chokes off the flow of the breath of life to future generations and to all generations that came before.”

In the following group discussion a young man noted that it is the sin of pride to think we are self-sustaining without God’s breath of life.

At first read, it had always seemed like such a simple passage. Such is the treasure of Scripture waiting to be unearthed.

Image credit: fresco from Sistine Chapel | Michelangelo | Public Domain

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