Penance

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
(John 20:19-31)

Scripture Study

20:19 that day: The evening of Easter Sunday.

20:20 his hands and his side: The point is that Jesus is raised not simply with a body, but with the same body that was crucified and died only days earlier (20:25, 27). He carries these marks of his earthly sacrifice with him even when he ascends into heaven (Rev 5:6) (CCC 645).

20:21 Peace: A traditional Hebrew greeting.

20:22 he breathed on them: Anticipates the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, which will take place 50 days later (Acts 2:1–4). Here we see that the risen humanity of Jesus has become a sacrament of the divine Spirit (6:53–58; CCC 1116). ● John uses an expression that recurs in significant contexts in the Greek OT. It appears in Gen 2:7, where the Lord breathes life into Adam; in 1 Kings 17:21, where the Greek version specifies that Elijah resuscitated a boy with his breath; and in Ezek 37:9, where God raises an army of corpses to new life by the breath of the Spirit.

20:23 forgive the sins: Jesus’ ministry of mercy and reconciliation will continue through the apostles (2 Cor 5:18–20; Jas 5:14–15). The power to “forgive and retain” sins in the name of Jesus is elsewhere described as the authority to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19; 18:18; CCC 553, 730). ● The Council of Trent connects this episode with the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by which Christ distributes divine forgiveness to the world through the successors of the apostles (bishops) and their assistants in the presbyterate (priests) (CCC 976, 1441, 1461).

20:26 Eight days later: The second Sunday of the Easter octave.

20:28 My Lord and my God!: The climactic confession of faith in John’s Gospel (CCC 448, 644).

20:30–31 A statement of purpose by the evangelist. He has written the Fourth Gospel both as history and as witness, in the hope that a factual portrayal of the Christ’s life will not just inform readers, but challenge them to accept him and his claims with true faith (Lk 1:1–4).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our magnificent Gospel declares that there is no greater manifestation of the divine mercy than the forgiveness of sins. We are in the upper room with the disciples, those who had denied, betrayed, and abandoned their master. Jesus came and stood in their midst. When they saw him, their fear must have intensified: undoubtedly he was back for revenge.

Instead, he spoke the simple word “Shalom”, peace. He showed them his hands and his side, lest they forget what the world (and they) did to him, but he does not follow up with blame or retribution—only a word of mercy. And then the extraordinary commission: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus’ mercy is communicated to his disciples who in turn are sent to communicate it to the world.

This is the foundation for the sacrament of penance, which has existed in the Church from that moment to the present day as the privileged vehicle of the divine mercy.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.