Gospel of Sunday 28 May: John 20, 19-23
Pentecost A, John 20, 19-23: Jesus Appears to His Disciples
Gospel of Sunday, John 20, 19-23
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
John 20, 19-23: the relevance of the Holy Spirit in today’s Gospel
We Christians tell one of our biggest lies even when we recite the ‘Creed’: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit…, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified’: who among us adores and glorifies the Holy Spirit as much as prays and praises the Father and the Son? Certainly in our churches people pray much more… to Our Lady, St. Rita or St. Pio of Petralcina than to the Holy Spirit! The majority of Christians do not even really know who this Holy Spirit is, and this is an old story: already in the early Church, in Ephesus, some disciples said to Paul: “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit!” (Acts 19:2): and many who call themselves Christians today could answer in the same way. It is not for nothing that the Holy Spirit has been called “the Great Forgotten One”. And yet in the “Creed” we always reiterate: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and gives life”, and in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer we call Him the “First Gift to Believers”!
The Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son and which expands from them: it is not only their relationship, but is also their distinct Fruit: it is a Person, it is the Spirit of Love. “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8), and Love is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, however, is not only the Love that unites the Divine Persons; it is also God’s Love for us: “Even to the point of jealousy he loves us the Spirit whom he has made to dwell in us” (Jas 4:5); “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).
Modelled on the Holy Trinity, we must make our lives only dialogue, communion, gift, oblation, free service, love. Life according to the Spirit is therefore the condition of the Christian (Rom 7:6; 8:14; Gal 5:25).
Theologians, based on the text of Is 11:2-3 (according to the LXX and Vulgate), speak of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, infused in a special way in the Christian: wisdom (from the Latin “sàpere”, to taste), which gives us the taste of the things of God; intellect (from the Latin “inter-legere”, to read within), which discerns God’s passage and His will in our and the world’s history; counsel, the ability to make and suggest the best choices for our sanctification; knowledge, which makes us understand the mysteries of God and creation; fortitude, which makes us capable of fidelity and witness; piety (in Latin “pietas”), that is, the capacity to love; the fear of God, that is, always knowing how to recognise ourselves as creatures in the presence of the Creator.
Wisdom, intellect, counsel, and knowledge are gifts of the Spirit because he is the inner Master of the disciples, their light; fortitude is from the Spirit because he is power that transforms us; piety and the fear of God are from him because he is the Spirit of love.
“The Holy Spirit not only sanctifies God’s people through the sacraments and ministries, and guides them and adorns them with virtues, but ‘distributing to each one his own gifts as he pleases’ (1 Cor 12:11), he also dispenses special graces among the faithful of every order… And these charisms, whether extraordinary or even simpler and more common, since they are above all suitable and useful for the needs of the Church, are to be received with gratitude and consolation” (Dei Verbum, n. 12).
The word ‘charisma’ is a neologism from the New Testament: it comes from the verb ‘charizomai’, which means to show generosity, to give something. It leads one to think of the term ‘charis’, ‘grace’.
Charisms have certain characteristics: they are not part of the fundamental graces, but are particular gifts distributed by God in a different way (1 Cor 12:4; Rom 12:6); they are to be distinguished from ‘talents’, which belong to the natural order (1 Pet 4:10; 1 Cor 12:7. 11); they are given for the “building up of the community” (“oikodomè”: 1 Cor 12; Rom 12); they must be recognised and standardised by those who exercise the hierarchical ministry (1 Cor 14; Rom 12; 1 Pet 4:10-11); finally, all charisms are nothing if charity, which gives them meaning and enlivens them, is missing (1 Cor 13).
In several passages Paul offers us a list of these (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:8-10. 28; Eph 4:11-13); there is the gift of being apostles; there is the gift of prophecy, probably the preaching of repentance and judgement (1 Cor 14:24), exhorting and comforting (1 Cor 14:3), perhaps even announcing the future (Acts 11:28; 21:11); there is the magisterium, being pastors and evangelists; wisdom, the taste for God; science, the knowledge of his mysteries; faith, understood as that which moves mountains and performs miracles (1 Cor 13:2; Mk 9:23; 11:23; Mt 17:20); the gift of performing healings; that of performing miracles; discernment of spirits, that is, the ability to distinguish the divine Spirit from the demonic one when ecstatic people speak; lastly, the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues: the term ‘glossa’ means ‘tongue’ (speaking without the control of reason? Unlikely…), “language” (speaking in unknown foreign languages? Cf. Acts 2:1-11; but 1 Cor 14:10 would not seem to agree…), or “ancient and incomprehensible expression” (perhaps the heavenly language: 2 Cor 12:4; 1 Cor 13:1; Rev 14:3), ecstatic manifestation in Christianity of forms that also existed among the pagans, always the work of the Spirit but a subordinate charism (1 Cor 14).
Woe betide us for deserving Stephen’s rebuke to the Jews: “O stubborn and pagan in heart, you always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51).
It is therefore necessary: “to live and be nourished by the Spirit…, to walk in the Spirit,… to allow oneself to be guided by the Spirit, to be docile instruments in the hands of the Spirit, harps of prayer, fruits of the Spirit… Only in this way is the Christian constituted as ‘a letter written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Cor 3:3)” (Pedrini).
Anyone wishing to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.