The Gospel from the first Sunday after Easter (John 20:19-31) recalls on the evening of the Resurrection, Jesus appears to the Apostles in the Upper Room and establishes the Sacrament of Reconciliation in an amazing way.   An excerpt:

 [19] 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.” [20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  [21] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”  [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

How Jesus uses the events of the Passion and Resurrection to establish His Church is astounding.

Consider the Apostles’ state of mind in the Upper Room on the evening of Easter Sunday:

  • The Apostles (except for John) had scattered at the Passion, abandoning Jesus Christ in fright.  Peter, the leader of the Apostles, had denied Christ three times (John 18:15-18).
  • Of course, the critical events of the Passion were predicted by the Son of God; for example, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (John 13:36-38).
  • It is critical to remember that Jesus not only knows what will play out, but that He is in complete charge of events (John 10:18).  Jesus Christ, the Divine Strategist has a plan that He has put in place with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus knows that the Apostles are in the darkest despair, having lost Him and having denied Him.  The Apostles are emotional wrecks, having hit the lowest of lows, full of self-loathing, regret, anxiety and fear that the Romans and Jewish leaders might be coming to crucify them next.

Now consider how Jesus puts the Apostles at ease:

  • Knowing the hearts of the Apostles, and their deep contrition for their many sins, Jesus first says: “Peace be with you.”  In these words, Jesus is offering them the forgiveness of their Sins.  He is signaling to the Apostles, that He still loves them, with an overflowing abundance of Divine Mercy.  Jesus Christ is Divine Mercy.
  • By offering “Peace”, Jesus is helping the Apostles recall the “Peace” that he gave the Apostles the last time they were together in the Upper Room at the establishment of the Eucharist (John 14:27).
  • Knowing that the Apostles thought perhaps that Jesus was a ghost, He shows them His hands and side.  By doing this, Jesus clearly establishes that He has risen with His Body.  The Apostles are convinced for they “were glad when they saw the Lord.”
  • They were also glad that Jesus had forgiven them.  Jesus doesn’t hold a grudge for the contrite and repentant.

Next, Jesus Christ, giver of the Sacraments, establishes the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a decisive way:

  • Jesus first tells them that He has been sent by the Father and that He is sending them. By doing this, Jesus is clearly describing His authority and that He is passing along some of that Divine Authority to the Apostles. 
  • But authority to do what? To establish the the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Church!
  • Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
  • This bestowal of the authority on the Apostles to forgive sins echoes Jesus’ giving authority to Peter earlier (“bind and loose” – Matt 16:19, 18:18).
  • This ministry of reconciliation, continues with the Apostles in the New Testament (2 Cor 5:18-29; Jas 5:14-15) and the Church has definitively taught that Jesus actions establishes the Sacrament of Reconciliation (CCC 976, 1441, 1461).

Jesus’ use of events and His insight into the human heart and mind is astounding:

  • What is astounding about Jesus’ approach, is that Jesus has used the Apostle’s agony over their sins, and the forgiveness of their sins, to let them be the first to participate in the post-Resurrection Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Jesus Christ the Divine Psychologist, uses the psychological state of the Apostles to give them and unforgettable experience of the power of this new Sacrament.  The Apostles know the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: they have just experienced it!
  • Not only that, but the Apostles, who have denied God Himself, must have realized that Jesus Christ’s forgiveness of sins would have a powerful liberating effect on the many who are lost in sin, then and forever, even up today.
  • To further reinforce the powerful experience (and another example of Christ’s knowledge that transcends time), Jesus breathes on the Apostles, anticipating the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

In this short passage, the Divine Brilliance shines; He is the Divine Strategist, Divine Mercy, Divine Psychologist and the Giver of the Sacraments.

The Divine Brilliance of Jesus Christ shines throughout the world today.  Live in His Light; embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation often.