Sunday 28 May 2023
Jn 20:19-23

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”
(John 20:19-23)

When Jesus appears to His own after the resurrection, they are still shocked, fearful and full of doubt. This is despite some women having encountered Him risen from the dead, and Peter and John having seen the empty tomb. Jesus appears in their midst and He doesn’t condemn them. On the contrary, He offers them messianic peace, shows them that He is truly alive and He sends them. As the Father had sent Him, now He sends His disciples. Before this, though, He breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. The verb used here, translated from the Greek as blow or breathe (respire), is the same verb found elsewhere in the Bible in chapter 2, verse 7 of the Book of Genesis. This is when God, having shaped the man from the dust of the soil, breathes the breath of life into his nostrils and the man become a living being. With this gesture of Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit recalls Creation itself: it is a New Creation.

In John’s Gospel, the resurrection and the gift of the Spirit are one event: man or woman, receiving the Holy Spirit, reborn and entering communion with God. Just as the Hebrew world celebrates the gift of the Torah (the Law) on the feast of Pentecost, on this same day of Pentecost the Spirit enters the disciples, writing the law of Love on their hearts. It happens just as Jeremiah had prophesied: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (31:33). It is the law of Love, of forgiveness, of justice that becomes justification (which is mercy). It is the interior law in which the Spirit arouses the will and allows it to work according to His plan of love (Phil 2:13).

The gifts that the Lord Jesus brings us (such as love, joy, the Holy Spirit…), are all born out of forgiveness. We are called to be objects of God’s forgiveness and to be channels of forgiveness for others. The Good News doesn’t end with Easter. It includes Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit, without whom we cannot belong to Christ and, by doing so, being Children of God.

Therefore, let’s open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and live the joy not only of being forgiven, but also of forgiving!

Fr. Giuseppe