Jesus said, “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.
The risen Christ sends us out into the world, empowers us with the Holy Spirit, and calls us to use our power according to his way and not the world’s. We are to listen and let go of control when we are powerful. We are to speak and act when we are powerless. Equally important is our challenge to intervene against injustice: we are to find ways for the Holy Spirit to empower those who are oppressed and powerless to speak the truth and to challenge those who are powerful to be silent and listen.
How can you move the people in your work, your family, or your ministry toward Pentecost?
If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
by Joan Mitchell, CSJ
“In the cosmology of Jesus’ time, God and the heavens were up and human beings and Earth were below. Our 2,000-year-old gospel tells the story of the risen Jesus’ return to God in the cosmology everyone assumed in the first century. To return to God is to go to the heavens. As the Church celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven in 2013, we wonder where he goes, where God’s home is. We hunger for lasting communion with our loved ones.”
How do you imagine communion with God?
Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. As he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and his sending of the Spirit. Luke ends his gospel with Jesus’ departure and begins the Acts of the Apostles with the same moment.
In the ascension Jesus passes over into communion with God, bridging the human and divine. He blesses this company of followers about to become a Spirit-filled community, witnesses to the paschal mystery of Jesus’ passage from death to new life.
How do you understand where the risen Jesus is? How do you imagine the communion with his Father to which the risen Jesus returns?
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another.”
After Judas leaves, Jesus teaches his new commandment. It turns on the little word as, the likeness to his own love that Jesus expects of his disciples. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Love for each other is how others will recognize Jesus’ followers. Our love for each other will reveal the one we follow.”
How does the community of faith to which you belong live out Jesus’ example and commandment?
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
Sunday’s short gospel passage comes near the end of John’s gospel, chapter 10. Jesus knows us. This passage promises his followers will never perish. No one can snatch us from Jesus’ hand or his Father’s hand. These consoling promises make a comforting funeral gospel; our relationship with Jesus and his Father is infinite and eternal.
What insights into our relationship with God as believers do you find in the imagery of the good shepherd?
My dad was a different man when he was fishing. If we dinged the car or hit a ball through a window, he would growl and shake his head as if to say, “How did I get such dumb kids?”
But on the Mississippi River things were different. We anchored in some backwater and casted for hours, waiting for the big catfish to find our night crawlers and swallow our hooks. Backwaters are quiet places with low-hanging trees. Many of my casts got caught in their leafy branches.
I expected Dad to be impatient with my lack of casting skill. But he wasn’t. Every time I snagged a tree, he motioned for me to haul up the anchor. Then he rowed over, patiently untangled the line, and retrieved my tackle and bait. He would be whistling, not growling. I loved those times together and was always amazed that he wanted us kids to go along.
Maybe the Mississippi was a sacrament of reconciliation for my dad. Maybe the quiet and the slow, gentle rituals of fishing let his heart ring with his love for us and gave him small but important ways to show that love.
I never drive the winding road down to where Dad kept his boat without grinning to myself because I can see him grinning at me, the girl who caught more trees than fish. I can see us fishing with all the time in the world to untangle our lines and our lives.
In Sunday’s gospel Peter goes fishing and the risen Jesus waits for him at the lakeshore. Why should I be surprised that this place is where they reconcile?
Sunday’s Easter scene preserves a snapshot of the original Christian community, small and intimate. It includes the eleven, Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, and other people who have followed Jesus. They have accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem and witnessed him heal and teach.
This Easter community has no pastor, committees, governance, or finance reports – yet. The group encounters Jesus face to face, risen and present. Jesus knows their feelings and needs; he brings them peace and process for handling their conflicts.
A third time Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” So Peter said to him: “Lord, you know everything. You know well that I love you.”
Jesus answered, “Feed my sheep.”
The three repetitions remind us of the three times Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. In that scene Peter, afraid for his life, refused to own up to any connection with Jesus. Here by the lake, Jesus asks him to affirm that they still stand together in love and mission. Jesus gives Peter a responsibility but not a superior role. Peter is to feed, tend, and love the community, not lord it over the flock.
How have Church pastors tended and nourished you?
Jesus said, “You became a believer because you saw me. Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.”
Thomas occupies center stage in the second half of Sunday’s gospel. Thomas’s doubt and subsequent faith parallel the mystery of how later generations of Christians grow into faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thomas touches Jesus’ hands, feet, and side for all of us who are not among the first witnesses.
In every believer’s life, the community’s faith sometimes must carry the doubts of an individual. By including the story of Thomas’s doubt and faith, John’s community challenges itself to faith in Jesus’ presence and absence.
How does the story of Thomas coming to faith resemble your own journey?