John 20: 19-23

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

Gospel Reflection

St. John locates the giving of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s death, followed by his breathing this same Spirit on the Apostles on Easter Day. On Golgotha, according to St. John, Jesus cried out: I thirst! (19:28). In accordance with John’s habitual style, this bears a double meaning. Jesus suffered a tormenting physical thirst. More deeply, he thirsted to give us the Spirit, whose image is living water welling up to eternal life (cf. 4:14; 7:38). John’s account of the moment of Jesus’ death also bears a double meaning. He said: it is accomplished, and bowing his head, – as our translation has it – he breathed his last. But more literally: he handed over the Spirit.

In today’s Gospel we read how Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples on the evening of Easter Day. In the first place he twice invoked peace upon them. That word might appear to be merely a conventional greeting, but in the circumstances it’s supremely charged with meaning, and closely associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit. With that word Jesus granted forgiveness and reconciliation with God to his disciples, almost none of whom had behaved honourably during the Passion. With that word “Peace” too, Jesus removed their sadness at his death, and their fear of being asked to follow in the same path. Then he said: As the Father sent me, so am I sending you (20:21). That is, from this moment, the mission of the disciples is to be a continuation or extension of his own divine mission. They are the ones who will now bear the divine life in the world; they will glorify the Father; they will draw all men to God, through Jesus; they will love, even as they have been loved, “to the end” (13:1).