My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
The words were spoken by a fragile priest but they were full of fire and power of the Holy Spirit. I was convinced that the Risen Christ stood there, in that room in the nursing home, like he did in the Gospel today. The Apostles were filled with joy. Probably they didn’t know what that joy was all about but 50 day later, on the Pentecost Sunday, they knew it, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. True and lasing joy is the sign that the Holy Spirit is in you.
I grew up in Europe, where around this time, I mean May and June, you can see young people in love with each other. It is said that warmer days after the freezing winter make people prone to falling in love. It is also said that spring is the display of love. Well, I could argue that. It is more the display of kissing, hugging and ditching school.
We Christians believe that the spring is the time begun by Jesus’ Resurrection. Look, when Christ was raised up he didn’t come to the Apostles saying: “I’m fine! I’m good. I’m good! Don’t worry!” No, he came to them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Before that, as St John, who was there, recorded, Jesus breathed on them. It is exactly what God did at the beginning of Creation, as we read in Genesis: “God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, thus man became a living being.”
Jesus coming to his disciples breathes on them in the same way that brought the first human being to life. In the morning of Easter Sunday Christ Jesus was raised up. In the evening of the same day Christ Jesus transforms his barely alive companions into people fully alive, filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with joy. This breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit, brings forgiveness of sins. Who can forgive sins? Only God can! If sins are forgiven it means that God wants them to be forgiven. We could finish here this homily as the message of forgiveness being carried by the Holy Spirit is like the warm spring breath that breaks the power of winter which stops life from sprouting. We could sit here and enjoy this warmth of the Holy Spirit forgiving our sins, like after confessions which we did well. But it wouldn’t be a full picture if we didn’t have a display of love. What is this display about? The Risen Lord coming to his disciples breathed on them not only to forgive them their sins but also to enable them to forgive others in his name. We know that it happens at Baptism and at Reconciliation when sins are forgiven in the name of Christ. That’s why when the Apostles left the Upper Room, where the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they started preaching God’s mercy. It was the display of love. Though some onlookers thought the Apostles were drunk. That first public preaching of Peter resulted in 3000 people being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit for forgiveness of their sins. But still there is something more in the Gospel for us. Christ the Lord breathing the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gave them power to forgive those who wronged them. The same Holy Spirit has been given us, you and me, to forgive from our hearts those who have wronged us. Maybe you live among angels, but in my life I have dealt with people who were not exactly angels. The message of Christ is: “Forgive them as I have forgiven you.” The display of love is all about forgiving others. Don’t hold grudges against people. Let your anger go. Don’t nurture resentment or bitterness toward people. Have faith in Jesus, and you will be among those who are in love with Jesus so much that they display it by forgiving others.