Sunday Readings: Acts 5.12-16; Revelation 1.9-11, 12-13, 17-19; John 20.19-31
“Even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them.…He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven them. If you hold them fast, they are held fast.” – John 20.19, 20-21
On Easter evening the risen Jesus breathes the creative, living Spirit of God upon the community of disciples locked in fear. Jesus’ gift of the Spirit empowers the disciples to become a reconciling community that forgives sins. The bible translation Catholic hear at Mass has Jesus add, “And whose sins you retain are retained.” This translation aligns Jesus’ words with those in Matthew’s gospel when he gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (16.10).
Bible scholar Sandra Schneider observes that the Greek word translated retained or bound more commonly means to hold fast, to embrace. She argues that Jesus is charging the community to hold fast the people they forgive. As a reconciling community, they are to embrace and support those they forgive, not to hold them bound to their sins. This is our call in continuing Jesus’ mission—to be the face of forgiveness and mercy among those in our lives.
Jesus entrusts us to one another’s care. We can strengthen bonds among us, and we can shred relationships. We can remember wrongs that have been righted. We can exclude those who trouble and test us. In his gift of peace to the original disciples, Jesus insists that they have the power to build and hold together as a community.
Who holds you fast? Who do you hold fast?
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