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.
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." (cf. verse 19)
This short gospel holds an unimaginable depth, the secret of Pentecost in a way. The time indication specifies "on the evening of the first day." This is actually unusual and here wants to link the evening event of the first day in some way to the morning event, namely the resurrection. The morning event now finds its climax.
Despite the closed doors, Jesus enters and stands in their midst. This appearance of Jesus frees the eleven disciples from their fear and sadness (there are eleven of them since Judas has already fled and committed suicide). Indeed, they had closed the doors "for fear of the Jews". But Jesus' greeting of peace and the certainty that he really is one make this fear give way to joy. Thus the greeting of peace became the Paschal greeting. It is the first thing that the Risen One promises them. Here, joy and peace are truly the hallmarks of redemption and the Kingdom of God. That is why it is important that we take this greeting of peace very seriously. It can also be expressed in everyday life, for example by simply greeting people. Today, however, we no longer say: "Peace be with you", but: "Good morning", "Greetings", "May God keep you", etc. ... These are all wishes for peace that come, or at least should come, from this relationship with the Risen Lord. It is not just a pious wish, but we receive this peace from the altar - "Peace be with you"! - and we must pass it on as a form of first evangelization.
The first thing that Jesus says after his Resurrection is this Easter greeting of peace. This should make us think, make us think. It is this Easter greeting that, through the power of the Risen One, can spread throughout the world: Peace, a precious and immense good. This is why we speak of heaven as "eternal peace". It is an expression of fulfillment and fullness. This fullness of life comes from the Resurrection. It has been given to us by the Risen One and we must pass it on - in our own way - by promising something good to people with our greetings. This is different from the impersonal "hello" I say to someone I don't know. But if I know someone, I should greet them personally. Otherwise, we risk losing something. However, we must ask ourselves where we got the idea that we have put aside our beneficial Christian greeting for this impersonal "hello".
"When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." (cf. verse 20)
By showing the disciples his stigmata on his hands and side, Jesus "proves" to them that he is the same as before his passion. He convinces them that he is not someone else. So, the word: "that they have seen the Lord" is in fact the realization of the promise that Jesus made to them before his passion: "I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice". (Jn 16:22) This promise made by Jesus is fulfilled precisely here and now.
(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (cf. verse 21)
Jesus addresses the greeting of peace to his disciples a second time. This is because He means that peace in the kingdom of God is much more than a simple greeting or a request for a blessing. It becomes communication. This peace is an inner gift that must be reflected and transmitted to the outside world. People must perceive that those who are anchored in Christ live in inner peace even at a time when everything around them remains plunged, so to speak, in discord, disorder and confusion.
With this greeting Jesus now introduces the mission of the disciples. He uses the present relative tense. Indeed, Jesus says: I am sending you, he did not use the past or the future tense. He did not say I have sent you or I will send you. This shows that the time of the mission has now arrived, and that it is unchanging, unchangeable and lasting. The disciples take up the mission that Jesus had received from the Father and as in the Upper Room, when he said to them after the Last Supper: "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19), there are now only the eleven disciples, no one else. Now, by his death and resurrection, what he said has been fulfilled. "This is my body, given for you. (Lk 22:19) Now the Last Supper has become, so to speak, the Eucharist. Now it is not only a meal, they do not only receive the Body and Blood of Christ, but now the sacrifice of Christ, his offered presence is real. That is why the Eucharist is a sacrifice and a meal. Without sacrifice, there is no meal. In the same way, this is why the priesthood goes hand in hand with sacrifice. There is no sacrifice without priesthood and a priesthood without sacrifice has no meaning.
Jesus gives the apostles the mission that he himself had. It is actually incredible: "As the Father has sent me", this is exactly how "I am sending you", and this is also true for all the successors of the apostles, to whom they then passed on the same mission by the laying on of hands, as described by Paul. This is where the sacramental character of Jesus' mission becomes evident: He comes to them. He speaks to them. It is an external word that produces what it says. He entrusts them with his mission to bring salvation to the world. In the same way that he was sent by the Father as Redeemer, they must transmit this redemption to men. This is done especially in the sacraments. They are the true sources of salvation.
Nous devons une fois pour toute prendre conscience de la nature de cette mission et de ce que cela signifie pour nous les hommes : les successeurs des apôtres sont le Pape et les Evêques. Les prêtres sont leurs assistants, qui participent également à cette mission. Si seulement chaque Evêque était toujours conscient de cette mission et de ce mandat ! C’est la même mission que le Père a donnée à Jésus, que Jésus a donné aux disciples et que nous aussi avons aujourd'hui en tant que successeurs. Le but de cette mission est de donner sa vie pour que les hommes aient la vie, et de vivre dans cette attitude intérieure pour le corps. La tête vit pour le corps. C'est précisément l'heure de la mission. Les disciples reprennent la mission que Jésus avait reçue du Père. En effet, pour Jésus, il s'agit vraiment de transmettre l'autorité et la mission, exactement comme le Père l'a envoyé.
Dans l'Evangile du dimanche dernier, nous avons entendu parler de l'unité dans laquelle nous devons nous reconnaître les uns les autres. Il ne s'agit en effet pas de dominer, mais de nous servir les uns les autres, avec notre mission. Par le sacrement de l'ordination, le prêtre est le successeur des apôtres. C'est pourquoi ce sacrement est une communication réelle et objective d'autorité, c'est parce qu’il est si important que nous servions tout le peuple de Dieu avec cette mission, car c'est pour cela qu'elle nous a été donnée. Même là où nous devons diriger et guider pour que les brebis ne s'égarent pas, comme Jésus le dit à Pierre, il doit s'agir d'un service et non d'une domination. Si nous reconnaissons ainsi mutuellement les dons de tout le peuple de Dieu, de tout le corps et de chaque individu, alors l'unité dont parle Jésus est accomplie. Cette unité est la condition pour que le monde le reconnaisse. Mais si nous continuons à nous faire concurrence et à nous opposer constamment les uns aux autres - laïcs contre prêtres, prêtres contre laïcs, etc. -, si nous ne nous reconnaissons pas vraiment les uns les autres dans tout le don que Dieu a fait à chacun, alors nous n'avons pas l'unité et nous ne sommes pas ancrés dans le Christ - notre parole ne produira alors pas la foi. C'est le problème de l'Église d'aujourd'hui. Nous devons donc revenir à cette unité dont nous avons entendu parler dimanche dernier dans l'Évangile.
Jésus transmet donc aux disciples son autorité et sa mission. Ils doivent rendre le Seigneur présent dans le monde, comme Jésus a rendu le Père présent dans le monde, et poursuivre son action salvatrice. C'est une mission magnifique. Encore une fois, il ne s'adresse qu'aux onze disciples. Ils étaient les seuls à être présents au Cénacle. Il ne faut pas non plus niveler ce fait : L'abolition du sacerdoce (et donc de la mission de Jésus) par les réformateurs a été une catastrophe, car les sources ont ainsi été effacées ou bouchées. Qui transmettra cette rédemption s'il n'y a plus de prêtre, plus personne qui participe à cette véritable mission de Jésus-Christ ? Nous ne pouvons pas nous donner cette rédemption nous-mêmes ! Mais Jésus n'a pas donné à tous la mission et les pouvoirs - par exemple dans la salle de la Pentecôte, où tous les autres disciples étaient présents - mais seulement aux onze. C'est à eux seuls qu'il a donné l'Eucharistie lors de la dernière cène, mais aussi, comme nous l'entendons maintenant, la mission et surtout le pardon des péchés dans le sacrement de pénitence. Nous devrions en être toujours conscients. Nous devrions reconnaître et revendiquer cette mission d'ouvrir les sources du Salut, afin que tous les autres membres du corps du Christ aient vraiment la force de témoigner du Christ et d'accomplir leur tâche dans le corps du Christ.
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." (cf. verses 22-24)
After the sending, now comes the communication of the Spirit. Jesus does not simply give his mission to the apostles, but he gives them all the power of the Spirit, which he too received in the Jordan. Literally, it says: "He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Now, to breathe already means in the Old Testament "to transmit life." At the beginning of creation, God breathed the breath of life into man. It is exactly the same word that is used here. The transmission of the Spirit of God here implies participation in the life of the Risen Lord, who indeed possesses the Holy Spirit and now transmits it to his disciples.
In this passage, Jesus clearly makes the forgiveness of sins dependent on the apostles being sent out for this purpose. If Jesus had not wanted this mission of the apostles to be passed on, as the apostles later did, we would be living in our sins again and no one would be able to absolve us of our sins, because no man can do that, because the sacrament and the mission of forgiving sins are acts of God. It is this mission, this sacrament, that Jesus gave to the apostles. Almost all religions are also born from this recognition of sin and the desire to be free from it. That is why we find in the different religions so many forms of self-redemption, which unfortunately are often practiced even by Christians, who actually know where their only redemption comes from. But again, we cannot redeem ourselves.
But the fruit of the redemption of Jesus Christ is this forgiveness of sins. This is the first mission that Jesus entrusts to his disciples on Easter evening: to forgive sins. This forgiveness of the sins of the apostles depends on the ones sent. "To whomsoever you keep his sins, they shall be kept." These are already very serious words that we cannot dismiss out of hand.
This word of forgiving sins and keeping them is really a word of authority of the Risen Lord, which no one can deny. On the contrary, we should be very grateful for this sacrament of Mercy. How many suffering people would only need this sacrament to be healed. There are psychologists and psychiatrists who say very clearly that if people went to confession, they would only have half the work to do, because a great deal of distress, moral and physical, comes from sin. As a religious being, man is bound to God and he cannot deny it. His nature does not deny it, at any rate. It reacts. Every sin takes its revenge on man's body and that is why he desperately seeks redemption everywhere. If they really recognized their faults before God and accepted the Redemption of Jesus in this sacrament of penance, if they forgave themselves and others in this sacrament, more than one of them could be healed morally and physically. This is a very great reality. The use of the sacrament of penance is decreasing more and more and this fact is finally for me also a sign of the wickedness of hell, which seeks to cut men off from the source of life, from the forgiveness that we need every day. We then fall more easily.
So let us ask the Holy Spirit every day to allow us to recognize deeper things and to lead us to a true conversion, especially with regard to the possibility of forgiveness of sins, which Jesus offers us here so generously. ∎