The power to forgive sinsSunday Readings
Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2013 (2EasterC)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS
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New American Bible
Prayer of the Hours
The disciples huddled together in the upper room shows that they were full of anxiety and fear. Their leader has been executed as an enemy of the state, and they stood to receive the same punishment if they were caught. Besides they had abandoned Jesus, fleeing to save their own necks. Even if they were safe at least, for now, they felt guilty for having abandoned Jesus.
Peter’s guilt was even deeper, since he had gone step further by denying knowing Jesus. All of them, however, shared some of Peter’s guilt. They had not stood by Jesus. God had not rescued him from the cross, so they did not know exactly what to believe about him now. Had he truly been the messiah – the anointed one? Had the reign of God which he had promised really been true? What had become of their master and – now- what would become of them? What would Jesus say if he were to see them now?
Then it happens. Someone suddenly appears in the room, in their very midst. Unlike on the Emmaus road, here Jesus immediately identifies Himself. Knowing that it is Jesus only complicates their feelings more. They rejoice to see him but are also bewildered by all that is happening. They are also apprehensive. What will he say to them?
“Peace be with you.” This is not exactly what they expect to hear, which is a reprimand, perhaps even a rebuke. He wants to assure then that it is truly he whom they are seeing. But what appears to be of most importance to him is to convey the experience of peace. The biblical idea of peace, of shalom, is a rich one. It is the best description of what the reign of God will be like: a place of safety, justice, and truth; a place of trust and inclusion, and love; a place of joy, happiness, and well-being. The risen Jesus’ very presence offers them that wonderful peace. This is the peace of the grace of reconciliation. The grace of reconciliation certainly flows from the resurrection in which Paul speaks in Philippians 3:10. It is a restoration of humanity.
In John’s account of the appearance of Jesus in the upper room the next theme that Jesus broaches is forgiveness. Jesus continues the theme of peace, and bestows on the disciples the capacity to forgive sins.
Forgiveness is one of the most thorny parts of the reconciliation process. We know how hard it is to forgive when we have been hurt. We know too how long it can take to forgive, and how animosities can even be passed from one generation to the next. Forgiveness seems especially impossible in situations where the wrongdoer does not acknowledge what has been done. Moreover, sometimes the enormity of the wrongdoing is greater than the act itself. Think of social conflicts and oppression, genocides and holocausts, global war and ethnic conflicts, etc.
The scriptures makes it clear that it is God who forgives (cf. Luke 5:21). Jesus bestows on the disciples the power to forgive sins through the power of the Holy Spirit; it is not something they have of themselves. God is the forgiver of sins not simply because God has infinite power, but because God is also the horizon of infinite love. God’s love is at once the offer of forgiveness and the opportunity to renew a broken union or to deepen that union.
In forgiving, we do not forget; we remember in a new way. The “forgetting” that we do in forgiving is an overcoming of anger and resentment, of being freed from the entanglements of those emotions and their capacity to keep us bound to an event. The freeing act of forgiving, done in its own good time, releases us form the bondage. In that sense, we do not forgive and forget – we forget in as much as we are no longer bound by those same negative emotions to the past.
Forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves – to get well and to move on. To forgive is really to remember that each of us says things we wish we had never said; that we can all forget that love is more important than being right; that we are so much more than our mistakes; that we have room in our hearts to begin again………. and again………. and again.