I celebrated Mass this morning for the Sisters of St. Francis at Clare Hall today. Here is my homily:
gospel (John 20: 19-23), Jesus confronts the fear of the apostles on the
evening of his resurrection. They had huddled together behind locked doors,
afraid that they would be crucified next. And, no doubt, they were afraid when
Jesus suddenly appeared before their eyes. Is he a ghost? Has he returned to
condemn them for abandoning him in his hour of need? Jesus said, “Peace be with
you,” and showed them his wounds, the signs of his everlasting love. He repeated,
“Peace be with you.”
Fear divides people and leads to conflict and war. The Original Sin had its
roots in fear. Our ancestral parents were afraid that God had not told them the
truth about the trees in their garden. Could they really trust God? Wouldn’t it
be better to get control, to have power, so that they would not have to depend
Fear led to mistrust which led to rebellion. The result was immediate:
separation and alienation from God and each other. Division.
Jesus came to take away sin and division. He came to reconcile humanity to God
and to one another, to bring unity amidst diversity instead of division. He
sent the Holy Spirit to continue this work of reconciliation and peace-making.
As a result, there are many different tongues or languages but one message.
There are many parts but one body. There are many different gifts, forms of
service, and workings but “the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” “the same God” (see
the second reading, 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7, 12-13). Notice the Trinitarian formula: Spirit, Lord,
God, or Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus, God the Father. The Holy Trinity is the source of unity in
diversity because this is God’s very nature—a Communion of Divine Persons. Three and One, as we will celebrate next
Sunday on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.
Humanity is made in the image and likeness of God who is diverse and one. Human beings are not isolated
individuals. Fear and sin isolate and
divide. The Holy Spirit renews the image
of God in humanity and brings about the communion of persons, making the many
parts into one body.
Jesus commissions the apostles in the gospel to continue his work of
reconciliation and peace-making: “As the Father has sent me, so I send
you.” He empowers the Church to overcome
sin that divides, breathing on the apostles and saying, “Receive the Holy
Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are
What does this retention of sin mean?
Reconciliation is a two-way street. One who has been hurt badly may
extend forgiveness to the offending party, but if the other does not admit the
wrong, accept responsibility for it, recognize the need for forgiveness and
receive it from the one extending it, then reconciliation has not occurred. The
sin is retained. Forgiveness was
extended but not accepted.
We must, like God, be always ready to forgive. And when the forgiveness we
extend is not received, we must continue to pray, sacrifice, and make reparation,
as Jesus did. We must do all we can to repair the damage that sin has caused,
This is what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is what it means
to carry on Jesus’ work of reconciliation and peace-making.