Receive the Holy Spirit. Who sins you forgive are forgiven them…

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked …for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

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.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Jn 20:19 -23

Recall the setting for this Gospel account. The first day of the week, is the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion. It is the evening and the Apostles are hiding in the Upper Room, where the Last Supper took place. Having seen their Leader, in whom they trusted, and from whom they expected victory and freedom, falsely accused, beaten, and publicly executed by crucifixion, they are afraid.

The Risen Jesus passes through the locked door and stands in their midst. He encourages them, “Peace be with you.” But He is not just coming to calm their fears. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is John’s version of the “Great Commission.” Jesus shares His mission with the Apostles. So that they might carry on Jesus’ work, He breathes on them and sends forth His Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit…”

And what is Jesus’ work or mission, which they now must continue? “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and who sins you retain are retained.” Jesus was sent by the Father to liberate mankind from bondage to sin. Because sin is an offense against God, only God can forgive sin. So Jesus empowers the Apostles with the Holy Spirit. Commanded by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Spirit, the Apostles will carry on this mission of freeing the world from the horrors of sin.

Reflection

The Church, established by Christ, and built on the Apostles, continues this mission until the end of the world. Before returning to the Father, Jesus promised that He would remain with His followers forever. (Matt 28:20, Jn 14:18) He does this in and through the Church by the mystery and power of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church.

Activity

The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

John 14:15-18

This gospel passage is taken again from the Last Supper discourse. Jesus is speaking with the 12 before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus uses this discourse to encourage His Apostles. He promises them, that although He is leaving, the Spirit, who is sent by the Father, will never leave them. Not only will the Holy Spirit be with them, the Spirit will dwell within them. Jesus does not explain how this will occur, but He does make one thing clear. This Spirit, whom He calls “the Spirit of truth,” is rejected by the world.

Throughout John’s gospel the evangelist makes a contrast between “the world” and Jesus Christ. In the opening prologue John writes, “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not…and his own people received him not.”(Jn 1:9-11). Later in the Last Supper discourse, John recounts Jesus saying,”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”(Jn 15:18)

John is not speaking here of the world that God originally made and declared “good”(see Genesis 1). Rather, the evangelist is acknowledging that with the first sin, creation “fell” from grace, and ever since, humanity has been in rebellion against God. Jesus came to quash the rebellion and redeem humanity and all of creation. The forces of sin are strong and it was not easy mission, in fact, Jesus suffered terrible betrayal, torture and death to vanquish the enemy. The Resurrection is the sign of His victory. “The world” will come to an end, but He lives forever.

Reflection

“The world” which rejects Jesus and rejects the Spirit also rejects the followers of Jesus who are inspired by the Spirit. Though this might sound unsettling, Jesus exhorts us, “In the world you will have trouble, but have courage, I have over come the world” (John 16:33).

Activity

It is important to realize that being a Christian requires fortitude, which is strength, perseverance, and courage. This is a virtue that we can practice, and that God will help us to grow in. This week, read about a courageous Christian. There are many, but two you might enjoy reading about are Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Irena Sendler.

I am the way, the truth and the life…

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to Him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”

John 14:1-7

Jesus came to restore all of creation into a rightly ordered relationship with God the Father. After God created, He pronounced all of creation to be good, and of course it was, for God can do no evil. All that He does is good, beautiful, true, life-giving. But then man sinned. When man, who was steward of creation, and God’s highest creature, sinned, all of creation fell, with man, into disorder. Jesus came to redeem creation, and restore order and goodness.

In this gospel passage, Jesus is speaking to the 12 at the Last Supper. Throughout John’s gospel, John demonstrates the divinity of Jesus, he does so here is well. Jesus uses the very specific construction “I am.” For the 12, and for all Jews, “I am” recalls the one, true God revealing Himself to Moses in order to liberate the Israelites from slavery. God revealed Himself as “I am, who am.” One way to think of this is I am “being:” everything that exists, all life, all that is.

Jesus, the God-man says, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” He is signaling His divinity. As Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He is the way to the Father, He is the truth of the Father, He is Life of the Father. There is no other way or path, no other truth or ideology, no other lifestyle or life-choice that will redeem the world or repair the destruction and disorder of sin.

Reflection

It’s very common for people to say- “Speak your truth,” or “You have your truth, I have mine.” Such ideas are opposed to Jesus. Any path, any belief, any lifestyle that does not align with Jesus, the complete revelation of God, will not heal the world nor will it bring us back to the goodness of the Father.

Activity

This week, listen to the ideas that are spread around you through conversations, music, tv shows, books etc. Do they acknowledge that God alone, revealed in Jesus Christ, is the source and fullness of truth and life?