John 20: 21-22: (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. This weekend at Mass we will hear Jesus speak these familiar words to us. One interpretation is that Jesus empowers the apostles and their successors with the ability to forgive sins and thereby allow others to experience God’s mercy. Another interpretation might be that Jesus is empowering the Christian community to act in His name. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells His followers All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I would like to believe that Jesus gave this commission to all the baptized and not just to a few of the leaders gathered around Him.
Cardinal Kasper wrote some beautiful words that remind us of the commission that we receive once we have touched Jesus’ wounds. Unlike Thomas who encountered Jesus in the upper room on the 8th day after Jesus’ resurrection and was invited by Jesus to touch His wounds, we cannot do that. But we touch Jesus wounds whenever we receive the sacraments. Like Thomas we say My Lord and My God. Jesus breathes His Spirit upon us so that we can continue the ministry that He began during His earthly mission. As Cardinal Kasper wrote: God’s mercy, which is decisively revealed on the cross, allows us, who have deserved judgment and death, to revive and to live anew, without having earned it. It bestows on us a hope against all hope. It creates a space for life and for human freedom. It neither eliminates human freedom nor suppresses it. On the contrary, this new righteousness restores our freedom anew so that it can be fruitful in works of justice and in our engagement on behalf of justice in the world…. In every situation, no matter how hopeless, in life as in death, we are accepted, held, and loved by God. To believe in the crucified son is to believe that love is present in the world and that it is more powerful than hate and violence, more powerful than evil in which human beings are entangled. Believing in his love means believing in mercy.