“[H]e breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

As we close the Easter Season today, we again read John’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the apostles in the Upper Room (Jn 20:19-23).  Recall that Jesus’ closest collaborators are in hiding for fear of arrest (or worse) after Jesus’ death two days before.  In the midst of this scene Jesus miraculously appears, giving His peace, showing His wounds, and sending them forth with the words above and with the power to forgive (or retain) sins.  What power the apostles received from Jesus!  While the charism of the confessional is reserved to priests like the apostles (and their successors), going forth and proclaiming the Good News is a mission for all Christians.  In this passage we recall baptism in which we became children of God, being wiped free of original sin.  The event of Pentecost (today’s first reading, Acts 2:1-11) recalls confirmation in which “[the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit[; h]ence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed” (LG 11 as found in CCC 1285).  Note that spreading and defending the Faith is an obligation, not an option.  But if we work diligently to remove sin from our lives and open ourselves to, and ask for, the grace of the Holy Spirit, it will not feel like an obligation, but rather a necessity: “[W]oe to me if I do not preach [the gospel]!” (1 Cor 9:16) and “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name.  But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jer 20:9)  Come Holy Spirit!  Make us like Jeremiah and Paul in our zeal!

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