Year B Pentecost Sunday
John 20: 19 – 23
Sow freely, Lord God, the seed of your word over the world. May it fall in good soil in us and may it be heard wherever people live.
The Word of God should become a reality in our lives. Each one of us becomes Good News. We need to absorb what the Gospel teaching is. If this does not happen then all these beautiful words remain little more than a few ink marks on a sheet of paper. What a tragedy if the Gift of God’s Word does not touch and influence our lives.
Today’s gospel teaches us about:
- The relationship between God and Me;
- How I should be living my life;
- The relationship between Me and Others.
“The Word of God” comforts the afflicted, and, afflicts the comfortable. Whichever category we fall into today, we should not remain untouched after Reading, Reflecting and Responding in prayer to the Word.
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As we read this text please be aware of the words that are highlighted.
John 20: 19 – 23
19In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you,” 20and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, 21and he said to them again, “Peace be with you. As he Father has sent me, so am I sending you.” 22After saying this he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.
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Jesus is risen. It is Easter Sunday. The day is over and evening has come when he appears to his disciples. The author makes it quite clear that everything that takes place is addressed to ALL Jesus’ ‘disciples’, you and I included. By repeating ‘disciples’ twice he allows no opportunity to duck out of the challenges that are addressed to us. You are the ‘disciple’ being addressed.
“Evening on the first day of the week” draws us back to day one of creation. On that day light was created and God separated the light from the darkness. God is busy, now, moulding each one of us into the best possible people we can be. A new creation process has started. Our lives will always contain light and darkness (sin and goodness; ups and downs; success and failure; joy and disappointment). God uses all these to mould us into better people. We are being offered an extra-ordinary gift right NOW.
Yet, O Lord, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Is 64: 7
Jesus really had a tough task ahead of him with the disciples. “The doors were closed.” Their minds were made up. They were not going to change! It was all over and most of them, particularly the men, had really behaved pretty badly towards Jesus. Deep down inside of them, they were fearful, filled with guilt and disbelief. Nothing could possibly change the situation! Have you ever felt this way? The present and future could not look more miserable.
Jesus chooses this moment to enter their lives. Twice he says, “Peace be with you.” (Shalom) Shalom is the Jewish greeting of welcome and farewell. Peace is central; may you walk with peace; may peace accompany you as you enter our home. Shalom embodies forgiveness, mercy, wholeness, harmony. For Jesus it is all over and forgotten. His presence brings peace. This is a time of reconciliation, building up, renewing the old friendships. We see our God reflected in how Jesus acts towards his disciples. A God, who liberates, does not oppress, lifts burdens and does away with guilt.
STOP!! Can you recognise these wonderful attribute in Jesus’ behaviour as he says, “Shalom” to you? Hear him saying this to you!
“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” We are being told to go back to the beginning of our text noting; Jesus’ attitude to his disciples. There is not a word of anger, disappointment or distrust. He does not even mention that all is forgiven. Jesus is really living out the Father’s mindset:
“It is I, I, who wipe out,
for my own sake your offences;
your sins I remember no more.”
Is 43: 25
We are invited to live out our lives following Jesus’ example. If what we have just read is not enough think back on how Jesus treated, “The Woman at the Well”; the “Woman caught in adultery” – “I will not condemn you.”.
“Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” Go and do this.
“Whose sins you retain (you do not forgive), they are retained (they are not forgiven.)” Do not do this.
Jesus is telling us that when we forgive he forgives. Without implying a limit to divine forgiveness, we could perhaps also say that when we hold back forgiveness, we can be holding people bound in their sin. Our mission is to carry on his mission of forgiveness, as he reminds us in the simple words of his own prayer: “Father, forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us”. (Lk 11: 4) Paul reminds us: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us”. (2 Cor 5: 19) 1
Jesus includes the disciples in his own mission. Jesus breathes on them and grants them the power over sins, to forgive or retain them (literally “hold” or “restrain”).
Though later Church teaching sees this gift manifest in the sacrament of reconciliation, its original meaning is wider. The community of disciples is to be a community of forgiveness that sends sin away (the literal meaning of “forgive”) and holds in check its destructive power. 2
Now we return to consider how today’s gospel has impacted on:
- My relationship with God;
- How I live my life;
- My relationship with others.
- Fallon M, Commentary on Gospel of John p353
- Donahue J R, Hearing the Word of God p 70