Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 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 to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ After 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.” Then he breathed on them and 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.’” – John 20.19-23
On the evening of the first Easter, the risen Jesus breathes his spirit upon the disciples assembled in a locked room. Breath is the invisible life within us. In this Easter scene the disciples receive Jesus’ spirit rather than fire.
As he stands among his disciples, Jesus shows them his hands and side. John wants us to recognize the risen Jesus is the crucified Jesus. The one who gifts the community with his Spirit is he whose wounds remain in his glorified body. John’s gospel sees an integrity in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and handing over of his Spirit — a single event.
John is unique in not designating the twelve as the only receivers of the peace and power of the Spirit. In Sunday’s gospel, the whole community of believers receives peace and the power to forgive. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke counts 120 people assembled on the first Pentecost (1.15).
If the community graciously shares the peace and forgiveness Jesus bestows on them, then the Spirit lives in their midst. The twelve are not the only disciples called to forgive. Forgiveness, like love and peace-seeking, is a mission we share, for we are the Body of Christ. The commission is ours.
Whom have you forgiven? How has forgiving or being forgiven renewed you, your family, parish community, or work place?