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,
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, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them. To them we will come and make our home with them.”
This gospel tells us that when people live like Jesus, they discover the Father within them. We learn and relearn Jesus’ message from living it. Jesus comes as a friend, an equal who does not exempt himself from the conditions of human life but lives them to the end, facing death on the cross at the hands of empire.
What do you appreciate about Christians understanding themselves as friends of God?
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?
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?
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and Jesus appeared to her.
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
Mary Magdalene hears a man she supposed to be the gardener speak her name. Like the sheep who know the shepherd’s voice in John 10, she recognizes Jesus’ voice. In John 20, the evangelist’s resurrection chapter, people come to faith in Jesus in multiple ways. The beloved disciple sees and believes. Mary Magdalene hears and believes.
Jesus commissions Mary Magdalene to tell his disciples he is risen. She is the first witness of the resurrection and the one sent to tell the others—the apostle to the apostles.
What do you hear in Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus that affirms your faith?
“Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” After Jesus said this, he died.
How can a man who is crucified be God’s messiah who comes to save people and bring them new life? Jesus, who dies the death of a criminal, isn’t even powerful enough to save himself. The first Christian preachers had to face mockers’ questions: How can Jesus be the king of the Jews, the messiah of God, God’s chosen one? If he is, he would have the power to save himself or God would save him.
What are your questions about the Jesus’ crucifixion?