BY: Fr. Jude Nnadi.


Readings: Acts 2:42-47;1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

“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).

Brothers and sisters, The Cenacle, that simple room on Mount Zion, in the upper floor of a building in the Old Jerusalem, carries with lots of Christian memories. There, the Eucharist was celebrated, priesthood instituted, Holy Spirit given, and the sacrament of reconciliation offered to humanity. Having listened to the account of the Johannine “Pentecost”, proclaimed by today’s liturgy, we are bound to stop precisely at this last but very important sacrament.


The whole story of that meeting of the Risen One with his disciples has at its center a phrase with an extraordinary gift, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them”. Forgiveness of sin; a certain prerogative of God is freely given to men. The Bible insistently repeats it: “Blessed is the one whose guilt is remitted… I will confess my sins to the Lord, and you Lord have forgiven the guilt of my sin”, exclaims Psalm 32 (1 and 5). In (Ex 34:6-7) forgiveness is the identity card of the God and Lord of Sinai. When Jesus healed the paralytic in Luke (5:21), his opponents the pharisees and teachers of the law accused him of blasphemy questioning, “Who can forgive sins, if not God alone?”
Christ demonstrates his divinity precisely by forgiving sins. The Son of man has the power on earth to forgive sins (Mt 9: 2, 6). It is precisely the finale of this episode according to Matthew’s version that allows for further step in this discussion on the remission of sins as presented to us by Jesus on that Easter evening. “Forgiving sins” is an exclusive prerogative of God, however God, through his Son, has entrusted to the Church the possibility of making his forgiveness visible with the “ministry of reconciliation”, as Saint Paul calls it. This is why Matthew’s story ends like this: “At the sight of the healing of the paralytic, the crowds were filled with fear and gave glory to God who had given such power to men” (9:8). The power to untie the dark knots of our evil is therefore entrusted to the hands of the apostles in the name of the risen Lord. But there is another way, subordinate to this which always remains fundamental: it is that of fraternal forgiveness as Sirach has it, “Forgive the sins of your neighbor, then your sins will be forgiven you by God” (28:2). The principle we repeat every day in the prayer of the “Our Father”.

All sins will be forgiven…; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never know forgiveness” (Mk 3:28-29). The only sin that cannot be forgiven is precisely the conscious rejection of the light of grace and therefore of the very possibility of being forgiven. With this blinding of pride or desperation, the road is cut off for the gift that God wants to give to all people, the gift of rediscovering the youth of the spirit, the resurrection of the conscience, the hope of a new life, of a new beginning. Another opportunity for this sacrament of reconciliation, confession is before us today at 1pm in this cathedral to mark the Divine Mercy Sunday!


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