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 | By Sister Ann Shields

Lectio Divina - Praying Through the Year With Scripture

Gospel for Pentecost Sunday

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “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.” (Jn 20:19-23)

First, let’s take a look at something we often overlook in our fast-paced society. Each Sunday since Easter has been marked this way: the Second Sunday of Easter, the Third Sunday of Easter, etc. Easter is not just a special day in the year. The Church sets aside the Sundays from Easter to Pentecost as a six-week Easter celebration!

Easter doesn’t celebrate a one-day occurrence. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. He has conquered death for us by his death on the cross; he has risen from the dead to show us that his death on the cross has triumphed over death forever. We die an earthly death, but if we believe in him, we will rise to eternal life. God in his mercy cancelled our eternal debt by dying for us. Therefore, we should celebrate. Begin by changing the way you think about Easter. We celebrate for six weeks, and then there is still more.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at this passage from the Apostle John. Jesus has died, but all kinds of stories are circulating: some disciples say they have seen Jesus; Mary Magdalene tells them the tomb is empty, and then Jesus appears to her. She first thinks Jesus is the gardener, and then he calls her by name and that changes everything. She knows his voice saying her name. She runs to tell the other disciples. But the disciples find it hard to believe the reports they are hearing; they saw his cruelly beaten body; some of them buried him. He is dead, but others say he is alive. On top of that confusion, they are terrified what the Jews are going to do. They have locked the door for fear of the Jews. Can you imagine the turmoil, the confusion – how might you have responded?

So right then in the midst of all their emotions – fear, doubt, hope, cynicism – Jesus appears to them. He wishes them peace – the gift they needed most right then. Then Jesus shows them the wounds he bore for them. They rejoice – it is Jesus! Right then, Jesus commissions them to preach the Gospel: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” But then Jesus breathes on them, imparting the Holy Spirit – giving to them and then to us his Spirit to dwell in us, to guide us and to lead us safely home to him forever. Truly. These are not symbols: The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son, a love so great that it is the third person of the Blessed Trinity. And Jesus gives us his Spirit so that all we need to live and preach the Gospel in the context of our own personal lives is given to us.

Notice, at the end of this passage, God gives them the power to forgive sins so that we can always have hope – no matter how we sin. If we repent, Jesus will remove our sins through the ministry of a priest; it is unparalleled mercy which God imparts to us through his Holy Spirit. There is so much to rejoice in.

Each of us in baptism became a temple of the Holy Spirit. Each of us, when we were confirmed, received the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we might grow in holiness and might be gifted in particular ways to help bring others into an understanding of the lavishness of God’s love and his gifts to each of us. By his Spirit, we are given the unfathomable blessing to live and walk in an ever-deepening union with him. Mystery? Yes. But true. Again, God shared himself with us, through his Spirit, that we might enter into a deep and personal relationship with the Father and the Son.

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To order, More of the Holy Spirit, by Sr. Ann Shields visit