“He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, for those whose sins you retain they are retained.”
Tuesday, 13 April 2021
There is something powerful and intimate about this moment when Jesus breathes on his disciples. The warmth of his life-giving breath enters into them. The gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised, enters into us too. And here they and we are being empowered as the new Christian community to minister to one another and to those seeking God.
When he was alive and engaged in his teaching and healing ministry, Jesus often said to people, “Your sins are forgiven”. He was accused of blasphemy as the religious teachers said that only God could forgive sins. And yet, here Jesus is showing that the power to forgive resides in the Christian community. God freely shares that power with us through the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness in the Christian community is not only offered within the church in a formal sacramental way in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This resurrection encounter reveals that we are each called to be ministers of God’s forgiveness and grace in our relationships and contexts. Forgiveness is a powerful act. It is a setting free, a liberation from the burden of guilt. It is an experience of restoration and new life. It is fundamental to living as followers of Christ. To forgive those who have hurt us is something we can only do through God’s grace.
Like the disciples, the Risen Lord breathes his Holy Spirit into us to speak words of consolation, healing, and forgiveness. We open ourselves to receive the Spirit through prayer and attentiveness to God’s invitation. Then we are empowered to be channels of God’s powerful grace in the lives of the people we encounter.