Today’s Gospel depicts a crucial moment in the life of the disciples after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It is a scene where the risen Christ appears to them, and the Holy Spirit is breathed upon them. The passage marks the beginning of the Christian community, and it lays the foundation for the disciples’ future mission.
In John 20:19, the disciples are gathered in a locked room, fearful and uncertain about what the future holds. Suddenly, Jesus appears among them and greets them with the words, “Peace be with you.” He then shows them his hands and his side, and the disciples rejoice at seeing their Lord alive. Jesus then breathes upon them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This moment is significant because it marks the beginning of the Christian community and the empowerment of the disciples to fulfill their mission.
The reference to the feast of Pentecost is important because it is the festival of the harvest and the giving of the law at Sinai. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles during the feast of Pentecost, empowering them to proclaim the gospel to all nations. This event links the Old Testament and the New Testament and demonstrates that the Spirit is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
Moreover, the reference to the forgiveness of sins in John 20:23 evokes Jeremiah 31:31-33, where the prophet speaks of a new covenant that God will make with his people. This covenant will be written on their hearts, and God will forgive their sins and remember them no more. This promise of forgiveness is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who through his death and resurrection, reconciles us to God and offers us forgiveness and eternal life.
The disciples’ role as a community in which the new covenant is realized and actualized is significant because it highlights the communal nature of the Christian faith. In John 17:21, Jesus prays that his disciples may be one, just as he and the Father are one. This unity is not just a superficial unity but a deep, spiritual unity that comes from being one in Christ. As a community, the disciples are to be a witness to the world of the power of the gospel to transform lives and reconcile us to God.
In conclusion, John Chapter 20 verses 19 to 23 is a pivotal moment in the life of the disciples and the beginning of the Christian community. The feast of Pentecost and the promise of the new covenant highlight the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament and the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ. The disciples’ role as a community in which the new covenant is realized and actualized underscores the communal nature of the Christian faith and the importance of unity in Christ. As we reflect on this passage, may we be inspired to live out our faith in community and be a witness to the world of the power of the gospel to transform lives and bring reconciliation to a broken world.
Fr Stephen Berecz