On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion
God wants us to change. This has struck me hard in prayer over the past few weeks. He wants us to become who He created us to be . . . but we cannot do that of our own power. We need the power of His Holy Spirit to grow in holiness. This Gospel passage is proof.
I spent quite a bit of time over the past few months lamenting my faults. If only I were more... If only I could... If only things were different... (those of you who know I love Catholic singer, songwriter, and mother Marie Bellet, will not be surprised that this is a quote from her first album) Mainly, I know I lack self-discipline in some key areas that would make my life more enjoyable. So, I gave up trying to figure out how to control myself and told God He would have to change me if He wanted change.
You can imagine what happened. I forgot about that prayer from about a month ago until this week when I realized He is making it happen. I am on my way to overcoming one of the dozen or so faults I was determined were ruining my spiritual and temporal lives, through very little effort of my own! I know the Holy Spirit has taken over!
As this Gospel begins, the disciples have locked themselves in a room in fear. They have, for the moment, given up hope of what Jesus taught them. They lived with him day in and day out for three years and witnessed His miracles and His Resurrection and Ascension, but their human fear still overtook them. How often do I "freeze" in fear when I know that I cannot do something I want or need to do? When was the last time I said, "Yeah, but..." or "I can't" to a challenge in my life?
Jesus appears to them in that locked room. He also comes into our locked hearts. But, His appearance isn't enough for the disciples. He has to show them his sacred wounds before they overcome their fear and are "glad." What proof do I require that Christ is always present in my life? How tightly do I cling to fear and doubt? Have I been denying my ability to do something or God's ability to help me accomplish something?
Just today, a neighbor told me a treasure of God. She went on a walk with her daughter in a stroller and about a mile away the skies opened and it began pouring rain. They took shelter under a carport for a while, but after about ten minutes of driving rain with no sign of letting up, Mom says, "Let's shout to Jesus to please stop the rain, so we can get home!" They both shouted at the top of their lungs and within a minute, the rain stopped, much to her surprised pleasure. It didn't start again until they were rounding the corner within yards of their home.
CHRIST CAN DO ALL THINGS...if only we will LET Him!
On Pentecost, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into His disciples, and sends them forth in peace to preach repentance and bring the Sacrament of Reconciliation, of healing, to the world. There is nothing His Spirit cannot accomplish in us if we only believe and put aside our fears. The disciples now have God's Spirit of holiness living in each one of them, as do we from our Baptism and Confirmation.
Do I allow the Holy Spirit to take complete control of my life, even the details? Do I put my fears and hopes in God's hands and let go of worry and doubt? Can I honestly say I am living in the Spirit, benefiting from the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit? And, how do I accept Jesus' "sending forth" to be a sign in this world of His mercy and love? Do I share His mercy and love with others and lead them to repentance? Or do I turn away, or worse harden my heart to their need for Jesus amidst their turmoil? To whom can I take the peace of Christ today?
For, it is true. He can change us. He will change us . . . if we ask Him and allow Him to do so. He will also change our children if we ask Him and teach them how to embrace His ways. (Incidentally, it is easier for children to be open to the Spirit in their innocence and youth, so it is crucial for us to encourage them in their growth toward holiness.) Every moment is a chance for sanctification. Do we surrender it to Christ and let His Holy Spirit rule? This great Solemnity of Pentecost is a great time to start! What a gift!
Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God "Father" and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory. ~ St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto