May 1, 2011
Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
If there is any passage that Catholics should put to memory I believe that it should be today’s Gospel, John 20:19-24. John’s Gospel has Jesus giving the sacraments of Holy Orders, Confirmation and Penance on the night of the resurrection. The disciples still do not understand the events that have taken place; they are in the upper room afraid with the doors locked. The gospel says that the doors are locked for fear of the Jews, but if it was me, I would have locked them for fear of Jesus. They had all betrayed him, one of their own handed him over to his enemies, Peter denied him three times; and they were cowards when He most needed their support. When Jesus appears, however, he does not display his anger or even displeasure with them, only his love and forgiveness. The first thing He says when He walks through the door is, “Peace be with you.” Instead of anger or vengeance, He forgives them. Then He shows them how He won that forgiveness through the wounds of the cross and He says to them again, “Peace be with you.”
Previously in the Gospel of John, Jesus would often explain that His authority came from the Father and that He was sent by the Father. Now He turns to His disciples and tells them, “As the Father has sent me so I send you.” The Apostles who were the first Bishops received their “authority” from Christ and it is that “authority” that has been passed on through their successors to the bishops and priest today. It is on the night of the Resurrection that Jesus is handing His authority over to the Church. As imperfect as the disciples were and as we may be today, deacons, priests and bishops are the ones “sent”, given the “authority” to be in the person of Christ to our present world.
The Gospel of John places the gift of the Sacrament of Confirmation during this encounter with Jesus. He “breathed on them” (the Jews understood the “spirit” as being the life breath, or the air that gives us life). In the story of Pentecost the Apostles were in the same upper room at night when there, “Came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind and it filled the entire house in which they were” (Acts 2:2). In today’s Gospel Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
After being forgiven and given the Holy Spirit, the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Apostles received the authority to forgive sins, the Sacrament of Penance (confession). We remember that Jesus came into the world for one reason, to forgive our sins and restore us to His Father. The first thing he does on the night of the Resurrection is forgive his disciples and then give them the “authority” to do the same. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Many ask, why we go to a priest for confession, why do we not go directly to God and ask for forgiveness? Well, here it is, we go to the priest who is in the person of Jesus because from the cross of Christ we are absolutely forgiven of our sins. This is the gift of Christ, the reason he died on the cross. His sacrifice was to restore us to His Father and to forgive our sins and He gave this gift to the Church to continue his work of healing for all times. Reconciliation is not a Lenten gift; it is an Easter gift, part of the joy we celebrate during this season of the year that through the grace of Christ we are restored to life. The question should be, “Why do we not share more frequently with this wonderful gift of grace that Christ has given the Church to heal the world?”
This leads into this being Divine Mercy Sunday. The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us — all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC: Ask for His Mercy. Be merciful. Completely trust in Jesus.
Again, Many thanks to all responsible for our environment, our music, all our ministers and all who made the Triduum and Easter such a great experience this year. We really have a wonderful parish and great parishioners. Again, much appreciation to all of our wonderful parishioners who support our parish every Sunday throughout the year and make this parish a place of welcome to all on these special feasts.
Last year at this time I was visiting the roots of our parishioners from Ischia and Sicily. It became a great opportunity to understand the origin of many of our people and visit their families abroad. All who joined me were very moved by the welcome we received. As you know, this August I am planning on visiting Rome, Medjugorje and Croatia. I know that it will also be a trip of a lifetime. If you would like to join us please call the number in the bulletin, there is not much time before the trip is closed.
I will be resuming my Adult Catechism Class tomorrow as we continue to explore the gift of the Eucharist. Monday, 7:00 P.M. in the lower Auditorium (Knights of Columbus Room).
Rev John F. Provenza