Acts 4:32-35; 1John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
We just heard Jesus declaring to His apostles: Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” After saying this he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit; for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”
The importance of the work of the Holy Spirit needs to be seen. St. John in his gospel account tells us that as He expired Jesus “handed over His spirit.” What, then, of the Holy Spirit and Jesus?
It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. In the eighth chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans we hear St. Paul telling us: But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells within in you.
It needs to be seen that God our Father in heaven sent us His Son in order to give us His Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus from the beginning of His ministry was led by the Holy Spirit. He worked His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s Gospel account we learn of God’s Holy Spirit at work again, this time re-creating life, giving us life after death, life after the death of sin and life after our earthly life comes to an end.
Just a few days ago on Holy Thursday we celebrated the Chrism Mass, the coming of the re-creating Holy Spirit who was given to us by God’s Christ, God’s Anointed One, through whom and in whom we are brought back into God’s life again in the One through whom God starts out all over again by giving us His forgiveness of our sins and a new beginning.
In his Gospel account St. John does not tell us that Jesus died. St. John tells us that Jesus expired by handing over His Spirit. Jesus’ last words were: “It is finished.” Then He bowed His head and handed over His Spirit. It was the beginning of Pentecost; it was the Spirit once again brooding over the waters. It was God once again separating light from darkness as He did when He created the world in the first place. The veil in Jerusalem’s Temple was torn open because God now comes to us not in a temple built of stone but rather comes to us in His new Temple, in His Spirit-filled Christ whose Body and Blood now brings us His presence and His life into us.
Chrism is the consecrated oil in which God touches us. The power within Sacred Chrism is the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Anointed One, was conceived by the Holy Spirit. When we were baptized the first thing that happened to us when we came up out of the waters of baptism was that we were anointed with Sacred Chrism, we were configured to Christ the Anointed One, and thereby we were made Christians.
When a new church building is consecrated to be a church its walls are smeared with Sacred Chrism. When a new altar is consecrated it is smeared with Chrism. When a priest is ordained his hands are smeared with Chrism. When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation the priest prays words of absolution saying: “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
All that I have said to you here is important to us because sometimes we wonder who we are and what our lives are all about. Because of the world that surrounds us we often think that we are of little importance and that our lives don’t amount to much. Human life seems so cheap today, disposable and easily thrown away. That certainly is the message of terrorists. That is the message of those who regard people merely as commodities to be bought and sold, hired and fired so that companies and business enterprises can improve their bottom lines by reducing what they regard as “the cost of labor.” And as for the drug pushers? We are only their markets.
In the face of all of the bad news that surrounds us the good news is that God regards us otherwise. He has spared nothing, not even the life of only His Son, to show us otherwise. The cultured despisers of religion surrounding us would have us find our happiness and our value in the temporary pleasures that this world offers. But they are only temporary and they don’t give life. Life for the worldly is only useful and has no lasting value.
The Holy Spirit is still working among us. I am quite convinced that He has given us another of His marvelous gifts in the person Pope Francis. There is no escaping the fact that Pope Francis is one of the most Christ-like figures that God in His goodness has given us in our lifetimes. He has given us a living example of what St. Francis of Assisi was all about. Mother Theresa of Calcutta is another. The Holy Spirit is raising up many other modern day saints as well.
What remains is for us to be open to the workings and inspirations of the Holy Spirit. God, you see, never gives up on us. He is a God of second chances, a God of new beginnings, a God whose plans and purposes cannot be thwarted. Even our sins cannot stop Him. Which is why we should hear the words Jesus spoke to His apostles: Peace be with you. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. God, you see, will spare no effort to pour out His Holy Spirit upon you to give you His love, to give you new life, to give you a fresh start and a new beginning.
The Lord is truly risen. Alleluia. In the power of the Holy Spirit may we share His presence, His power, and His love with all of those around us in our world of today. In the beginning God’s Spirit brooded over the waters of chaos… and He still does even unto today. “Behold,” He tells us, “I am making all things new.” The Lord is truly risen. Alleluia. Anointed in His Holy Spirit may we share His presence, His power, and His love with all of those around us in our world of today.