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THE EASTER GIFTS JESUS GIVES TO US

Father Francis's picture
Second Week of Easter

Jn. 20: 19-31.

After the Crucifixion the Apostles were huddled together behind closed doors. It is not certain where but most likely they were in the Upper Room in which the Last Supper had been held. The doors were tightly bolted. They were frightened men.

Their Master had been put to death by the Jewish authorities and there was every possibility that they would follow the same fate. I feel sure very few words would have been spoken. They must have listened fearfully for every step on the stairs and for every knock on the door. Each one knew how the others were feeling. They were wrapt in thought. They were praying.

Each of them was truly sorry for being such cowards towards Jesus. When their best Friend had needed them most they had gone and let Him down. If only they could see Him now and be assured of His forgiveness. He would understand how they felt. He had brought peace to so many others. They knew He would bring that same peace to them. Yes, if only He could be there with them.

Their prayers were answered! For suddenly from nowhere Jesus just appeared before them. I wish we could have seen the surprise on their faces. His first words, "Peace be with you" was the normal everyday eastern greeting which meant, "May God give you every good thing." To assure them that it was Jesus their Friend, He showed them His hands and His feet. They were overjoyed. Again Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you."

Then Jesus went on to give His Apostles the commission which the Church must never forget. His Father had sent Him into the world and now it was His turn to send them. "As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you." The Church from now on was to be the mouthpiece of Jesus, proclaiming His message to the world. The Church was to run His errands and do His work. From now on Jesus is dependent on His Church. But the Church also needs Jesus. She can never function without Him. Without Him she has no power and no message.

Jesus, then, breathed on His Apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." There is no doubt that when John wrote these words, he was thinking back to the old story of the Creation when the author of Genesis wrote, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." Gen 2.7. Receiving the Holy Spirit is becoming a new creation. It is the wakening of life from the dead. These men were dead and now they were alive.

Jesus continued, "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall not forgive they are not forgiven." Jesus at that moment gave them the power to forgive others their sins. What a wonderful gift Jesus was giving these men who had played their part in bringing about His death! Here He is teaching us how to forgive, from the heart, something we all find very hard.

He didn't come into that room and say to them. 'What a shower! How could you let Me down as you did. I wish you could see yourselves now. You are nothing but a bunch of cowards, all talk.' Such words never even entered Jesus' mind. His only thought was to assure them of His forgiveness and to build them up for the task ahead. The best way He knew He could do this was to give them the power to forgive others their sins. At that moment Jesus made each of them feel ten feet tall.

Now how does all this apply to us? The three gifts that Jesus gave to His Apostles are ours today. Firstly, Jesus wants that peace He gave to them to be ours here and now. Secondly, He wants us to be renewed people, the Easter people, by giving us the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, through the power of forgiving sins, Jesus wants us to know that whenever we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation His forgiveness is ours.

At this moment what joy and peace should invade our whole being. If we are not renewed by the inpouring of the Holy Spirit we have only ourselves to blame.

Lord Jesus, today our hearts are filled with admiration at what You have done for us, and we are deeply grateful to You. May Your peace be ours now and forever.

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