The Gospel for today, the feast of Pentecost, takes us back 50 days to the first Easter day and a first conferral of the Holy Spirit.
In the evening of 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’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this 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.’
The power bestowed on the disciples is remarkable. It is they who have power to forgive sins or retain them. Jesus was criticised for his forgiveness of sins, now he extends that power to his disciples.
It is an awesome responsibility. For, of course, no pettiness or narrowness of view ought to intrude, The Son forgives because the Father is merciful and calling all to conversion and renewal. So too with those who minister in his name: as Jesus forgives, so the Church…
Photograph of Confessional in the Jesuit church, Cracow. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.