It is Easter Sunday night, and the disciples, fearful and afraid are hiding in a locked room. They are terrified that what happened to their leader, Jesus, would now happen to them. I too would be afraid if I were in their sandals.
Suddenly, without warning, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them: “Where were you guys on Friday when I needed you? Some “friends” you jerks turned to be.” Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side. “See what happened to me because you guys all deserted me?” he taunted them. “Well now I am back and it is a whole new show!” And with that Jesus blasted them all to smithereens.
The young Sylvester Stallone plays Jesus.
Fortunately for us, that is NOT what happened. Instead of blaming, or criticizing, or accusing, Jesus’ first words were “Peace be with you.” Jesus had every reason to be bitterly disappointed, upset and angry at the Apostles. But instead Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”
Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side. Why? So they could see the wounds. Not to shame or embarrass the Apostles, but to show to them the ultimate proof of His love for them and for us.
Jesus again says “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus does something extraordinary. He sends them out on mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
What?!? These guys have just proven conclusively that they are worse than useless. Not only do they desert him and run away, but like Peter they deny that they know him. So it is remarkable that Jesus now entrusts His mission to them.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
But Jesus knows what He is doing. He knows His death and resurrection changes everything. His death and resurrection usher in a whole new phase of history, a fundamental and epic change in humanity. Because now the Holy Spirit is powerfully sent into the world.
Jesus breathed on them, just like God had breathed the breath of life into the first man, so Jesus is now making them new with new life in the Spirit.
Jesus said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
This is the initiation of a whole new relationship with God, due to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.
Each of us has been baptized into that new relationship with God in Jesus Christ. We too have been given the Holy Spirit. This means we are to no longer to live in the old way of force and revenge, of getting even and grabbing all we can for ourselves, but rather to live in the new way of forgiveness and peace.
We do not do this because of our own inherent goodness and virtue, because we are such great and holy people, but rather because we have been given the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live in a whole new way. The way of Jesus. The way of forgiveness, not revenge. The way of holiness, not sin. The way of Life, not death.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit empowers you to live in a whole new way. Follow Jesus!
This morning at this Mass, three children, Jolene, Emmaline and Caroline, will be Baptized. They will receive the precious gift of the Holy Spirit just as the Apostles did in that locked room so many years ago. We pray that the Holy Spirit will be strong in their lives, and in ours too. All this is due to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.
Happy Easter! Alleluia!