Today is the eighth day in our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. We prepared for our Easter celebration with forty days of Lent, a time to reflect on our life with God and His life with us. How good it is to be invited to rejoice in the wonder of Easter for fifty days. As we see in today’s Gospel, what seemed to end on Good Friday with the death of Jesus on the cross was renewed, re-nourished, and reaffirmed as the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples who were behind locked doors for fear of being identified as His followers. His words were not words of disappointment or rebuke, but words of reassuring love: “Peace be with you!” He showed them His hands and His side, they saw that He was the one who was crucified. But most wondrously, He made it clear that He still loved them. Now that love would truly transform them and they would begin building up the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. No longer were they fearful, discouraged, or guilt ridden. He expressed not only His love for them, but also His faith in them as: “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.” Not only did Jesus forgive them for their lack of courage, for abandoning Him, and denying Him when He underwent His passion, not only did He assure them of His life-giving love, He now breathed His Holy Spirit on them, entrusting and enabling to do what He did. Now they too could bring the peace of God’s mercy to all who would be open to it. Having personally experienced His forgiveness they were now empowered and impelled to extend that life giving power to all who opened their hearts to their need for it.
Without the Resurrection and the renewing power of God’s mercy and forgiveness, everyday is another time to try to escape the memory and guilt caused by past infidelities, betrayals, selfishness, anger, gossip, and apathy. Without the Resurrection and the renewing power of God’s mercy and forgiveness we expend time and energy trying to carry guilt and self disappointment that only weigh us down more and more. Our fifty day celebration of Easter, every celebration of Mass, every humble confession of sins in the Sacrament of Penance, all raise us beyond the devastating and energy draining power of sin, both our personal sins and failings and the sins and failings we see in our world every day.
Pure, unconditional love, love that is Christ-like and Christ-centered is at the core of what we need to share each day with our family, friends, and all those we encounter. Each time we love from our hearts as Jesus did and His commissioned disciples did after His Resurrection, the life-giving power of Easter is present. These fifty days of our Easter celebration communicate a message that is sorely needed in our world today. Will our world ever be free of such violence? The Resurrection is the beginning of the way to overcome all evils. Even more the power of the Resurrection encourages and enables us to rise always to be life givers in our thoughts, words, and actions. The Holy Spirit breathed onto the Apostles in today’s Gospel has been breathed into us in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. As we learned from our early years, a Sacrament is a visible sign of God’s grace. Filled with the goodness, wisdom, love, and mercy of the Holy Spirit, we become what fill us. Happy Easter!!!