Church in Action

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.”
(John 20:19-23)

This short Gospel passage presents us with two very different scenarios. To begin with: fear, seclusion, closed doors. At the end: peace, joy, mission. What effects the change from the first to the second: The decisive meeting with the risen Christ.

It is truly Him. He greets the frightened disciples and shows them His hands and his side. The joy of the disciples is the sign that they have recognised Him and received His gift of peace, a gift given to them so that they can pass it on to others.

This is Pentecost, the birth of the Church in mission. The crucified Lord Jesus, risen and alive, in the midst of the disciples rejoicing in His presence. He gives them His peace to silence their fears, so that they can open wide the doors of their hearts and their houses and embark on the mission on which He sends them, carried forward by the breath of His own Spirit.

As Jesus was sent into the world by the Father to proclaim the news of God's mercy which forgives our sins and gives us new life, so Jesus in His turn sends the Apostles, the Church - all of us - to the world to proclaim and communicate this. We can do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, given to all of us in Baptism and Confirmation. Some within the community, those ordained to the priesthood, have been given a special power to continue Jesus' mission of binding and loosing sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but all of us are called, according to our state in life and our particular gifts, to take active part in the Church's evangelisation. The Spirit makes us into one body. And it is as one body, the Body of Christ, we are sent the world, that the peace and reconciliation Christ brought may renew the earth.

First published in Polish in the magazine W drodze nr. 513 (05/213)