Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-23; John 20:19-23
Today’s Gospel brings the Easter Season full circle: this is the same Gospel we heard Easter Day. Today I’m listening with a different intent. Less than the narrative, I’m listening to the words carried by the breath of Jesus. I would listen to the breath itself, the same breath he exhaled on the faithful few who witnessed his death at Calvary.
That breath, a living and divine Person, first says Peace and concludes with whose sins you retain are retained. That’s quite a range and quite a responsibility granted to the apostles and any who share in their responsibility.
This year I am troubled by the possibility of retaining sins. This year of mercy has brought many people to my confessional. I’ve never retained anyone’s sins. But I hear victims of sexual abuse or rape or war atrocities or violent crime tell me how they struggle to forgive those who harmed them or how they cannot forgive them.
When I see the damage done, physical or psychological or spiritual, I wonder whether certain perpetrators of evil should not yet be forgiven because their absolution would be a juridical formality, engaging no responsibility for the destruction they’ve wrought.
Would I have the courage to hope for healing in such lives? What could I say to such a hardened heart? Would I be trapped by my failure and frustration, embittered by the weeds sown into the wheat? Can I humbly leave those weeds to the One who alone has the right to judge, harvest and burn?
To be forced to ponder the problem–isn’t that, too, the vibrant breath who is the Holy Spirit? Like an influx of oxygen, I’m shocked into fuller consciousness, bigger than my sheltered and blessed life.
How right and just that in John’s Gospel, Jesus exhales the Spirit first on those who were at the foot of the cross in that darkness when no response mattered, when nothing could ameliorate the pain and grief. How wonderful that the divine Spirit also filled that dark reality and worked its secret healing. The Beloved Disciple who stood at the cross that Friday then had eyes on Sunday to see the folded winding cloths in Jesus tomb and understand. As when the Spirit hovered over Mary in Nazareth, not at that moment, but nine months later in the shadowed stable of Bethlehem, that secret Light came to life.
In the shadow of the cross, in the upper room, locked in by fears and doubts, in the expectant receptivity of the fruitful virgin–where can’t our lives be infused by the Spirit?