Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Easter - April 11, 2010, Year C
Divine Mercy Sunday
By Dennis Hankins
The Breath of Jesus
...He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
In the breath of Jesus is the impartation of mercy. In his breathing upon his disciples Jesus gives the Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the very ministry of mercy. Jesus says to his disciples, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
I enjoy imagining the closeness to Jesus the disciples felt that Sunday evening. That closeness remains with the Church these two thousand years later. It is in the Church where we experience the power and authority of Jesus to forgive sins. How so? In the calling of the Bishop and his priests is the ministry to hear confessions and to forgive the sins of all who confess. In the absolution of sins, the merciful breath of Jesus is present.
Wonderful things are done in the name of Jesus according to todays reading from The Acts of the Apostles. Signs and wonders come from the hands of the apostles. Lives are changed and great numbers of people come into the Church to serve the risen Lord. Sick people laying on their beds and pallets in the street wait for Peter to pass by in hope that his shadow will fall upon them. Even those afflicted with unclean spirits receive deliverance and healing as the shadow of Peter passes by.
No one should ever minimize these gracious and miraculous occurrences. These things are wonderful and the name of Jesus is exalted. But the greatest power released is in the confessional when the priest says:
"God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
A few years ago, a popular TV series featured the interactions of people from different walks of life sitting around a bar in Boston. I admit watching Cheers on reruns with some regularity. Do you remember the theme song? You can probably still hum:
"Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name"
Well, there is a place you can go where somebody knows your name. He knows every spot and blemish and wrinkle in your heart. So much of this world lives deep within us. Sometimes it bubbles up and is manifested in angry words, unforgiving attitudes, and judgmental hatred.
Just where can an inner work on the inner man take place? May I humbly suggest that you take it to Jesus' closest representative on this earth? With a surrendered heart, do a self examination of conscience in the confessional, a place where everyones troubles are all the same.
Into Adam, God breathed the breath of life.(Gen. 2:7) With his breath, Elijah brought a little boy back to life.(I Kings 17:21) In Ezekiel 37, the prophet calls for the breath of God to breathe upon the valley full of dry bones.
Today, the breath of the Son of God breathes upon the disciples in that upper room where they huddle together in fear. The same breath sustains his Church in the 21st century, providing for her mission of mercy, love, and forgiveness.
Go then and meet with Jesus, present in the person of the priest. Receive again the breath of Jesus for the forgiveness of all your sins. It is the soft, gentle breeze of mercy.
Let us pray: Dear Father, create in us a hunger for the mystery of thy breath. Like the wind, you breathe where you will; no one can predict its movement nor ignore the wonder of mercy it brings. We ask this in the name of Jesus, thy only begotten Son, who rules and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, the very breath-wind of God. Amen.