Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NRSV)
This is the scene in the Upper Room that the apostle Thomas missed out on. There are some key elements that we learn about the Holy Spirit here.
Often the Holy Spirit is symbolized by breath. God breathes out His Spirit upon the void, for example, in the creation narrative. Jesus breathed on the apostles as He sent them forth.
The Holy Spirit is also symbolized by fire, as we learn in the story of Pentecost. Without air, without breath, there is no fire.
Since the Holy Spirit is the breath, the fire, the life-force of God, turned loose in the world, and bestowed upon us, we are empowered to share in the creative force of God. We have the power to bring healing, forgiveness and peace to an ailing and fallen world.