In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples “As the Father has sent Me, so I also send you.” Sent to do what? Simply to tell everyone that God has forgiven them. Has forgiven. Can that be true?
We soften this by saying: “Sure, God will forgive. Get your act together and ask God’s forgiveness, and God will forgive.” It’s up to us to take the first step. But that’s not what the Gospels proclaim. God always takes the first step.The father ran to his prodigal son and never gave his son a chance to apologize. Recall Luke’s story of the woman who snuck into a dinner party and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Jesus tells His host that she did this out of love because she had been forgiven. He didn’t say that she did this in order to be forgiven.
Do you remember Jesus’ dialogue with Peter, where He three times asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Nowhere do we hear Peter asking forgiveness for betraying Jesus. Nowhere do we read that Peter asked for forgiveness. Jesus’ own death was an incredible manifestation of God’s forgiveness given before it was asked. “Father, forgive them.”
Right after telling the apostles that He is sending them to forgive sins, He says: “whose sins you shall retain they are retained.” That sounds unforgiving, doesn’t it? But the answer is no. The word “sins” is not actually in the original Greek .This passage might be better translated “Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven; those (individuals) you have embraced should be held fast.”
Now comes the important question: Given that your sins have been forgiven and that you are held tightly by the Lord Jesus, what’s your response? Ho-hum? Uncertainty? Disbelief? Or a deep, deep feeling of gratitude and awe?
Happy Easter to you!!
Fr. Herb Yost, C.S.C.