front page 04

Second Sunday of Easter, April 3, 2016

The Gospel of last Sunday brought us back to a stage when the disciples have not yet come to the full realisation that Jesus, whom they saw crucified, dead and buried, is now alive, that he is risen. We see them huddled together in a room with the doors firmly locked “ for fear of the Jews”. At any moment they dread to be arrested as accomplices of the dangerous subversive who had been executed on Golgotha the previous Friday. And then, all of a sudden, the Jesus they presumed dead is standing among them. “Peace be with you!” he says. It can be taken as a blessing or as a statement of a fact – “With my presence among you there comes deep inner peace.” The same peace that comes when Jesus calms the surrounding storms in the gospel stories. And there is also for them an unutterable joy “when they saw the Lord”. But it is not just to be a happy reunion. There is work to be done, the work that Jesus began and which they are to continue. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” They are being given a mission. The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin word ‘to send’ (mittere, missio). All followers of Jesus have a mission, are missionaries. He breathed on them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In John’s Gospel this is the Pentecost experience when the Holy Spirit comes down on the disciples. What Jesus does is reminiscent of the Creation story when God “breathed” over the waters and brought life and order into the chaos. He “breathed” again and Adam, the human being made into the image of God, comes into existence. Now, Jesus “breathes” the Spirit of his Way, of his Truth and Life, making of them “new human beings”, full of the Spirit of the Father and Jesus. The very empowering authority of Jesus is transferred to them: “Whose sins you shall forgive… whose sins you shall retain…” When they act together in the name of Jesus, they have his authority. And, above all, their task is to “forgive sin”, that is, to bring about a deep reconciliation between people and God and among people themselves, to make all one in Him. “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.” We are not just talking here about “confession”, instituting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, although its roots can be traced to here. Forgiving sin is much more than a juridical act of declaring sins no longer held against someone. It involves the healing of wounds and division between God and people and between people as brothers and sisters in one family based on truth, love and justice. That is the work of the Kingdom. That is the work of every Christian community and every member in it. Commentary from Living Faith on