“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
Whose sins you retain are retained.”
We now enter into the Easter Season, the 50 day period between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. Our readings during this holy season are not the normal fare for Sundays. Our first readings are taken from the Acts of the Apostles and highlight the development and spread of the early Christian Church under the fearless leadership of the apostles and St. Paul. The second readings are taken from the Book of Revelation. This book uses symbolic language to describe the end times and the ultimate impact Jesus’ death and resurrection has on eternity. The Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of John. We hear of the many times Jesus appeared to his disciples before his ascension and also, some of the key teachings of Jesus to his disciples.
In today’s first reading, (Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16)
, we hear of the may signs and wonders done by the apostles. Great numbers of people were converted. And we are reminded of the primacy of the Peter, our first Pope, as just his shadow was considered a blessing to people passing by.
Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon's portico. None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them. Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
In our second reading (Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19),
we hear one of John’s visions where he is called to testify to the risen Jesus and his final judgement and rule on the “Lord’s Day” (the final day of judgement). John wrote in a time of distress and persecution and sought to give encouragement to those suffering in the name of Jesus.
I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, "Write on a scroll what you see." Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.
When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards."
Our Gospel reading (John 20:19-31)
tells of the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the evening of the first day after the resurrection. Jesus entered the locked room and said,
"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Thomas was absent at the time, but on hearing of Jesus’ appearance, said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
One week later, Jesus appeared again through the locked door; this time Thomas was with them. Jesus stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
During this 50 day celebration of the Easter event, the Church gives us this time to rejoice, to reflect and to pray on "What just happened" in Christ's painful death and glorious resurrection. In a sense, this is a “joyous Lent”, where we are filled with Joy at the love and forgiveness God has for us. And may we say, as did Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
- CLICK HERE to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for this Sunday