Pentecost 2024 Franciscan Gospel Reflection

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

May 17, 2024

Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel readings for Pentecost. Where do you encounter your own fears? Which of your fears are you grateful for? 

The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection May 19 2024. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photo: Malvern Retreat House, Malvern, Pennsylvania.

John 20:19-23

(For the feast day) 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.” Background: The second Gospel text for Pentecost is also from John’s Gospel. The text presents a different kind of experience of the Holy Spirit than is found in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 (the first reading for Masses during the day). Here in the Gospel, even though the disciples have gathered in fear, they are sent out just as the Father sent Jesus himself. However, the presence of the risen Lord is not inpeded by the physical restraint of a locked door, or their fears. The crucified Jesus stands in their midst and greets them with, “peace.” This greeting of peace is also a familar prayer for health, prosperity, and all good that comes with the end times. Jesus breathes on them the Holy Spirit–an action that mirrors God breathing life into Adam in Genesis. The disciples receive the power to both bind and forgive sins, an expression that names two extremes but is intended to communicate the full range of power between those extremes. In John’s Gospel, sin is defined as the refusal to accept Jesus and his teaching. By asking the disciples to be agents of forgiveness, he is commissioning them to reach out to those who have rejected him and his teachings. The reader might think of energy that is present when two opposites are brought together and the new energy that is released.
The modern reader may associate the forgiving of sins with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, in the early Church, forgiveness of sin was associated with Baptism, not the sacrament of Reconcilation. Here the reconciliation that Jesus is commissioning the disciples to be about is much larger than the personal forgiveness of individual sins. It would seem to be about the kind of reconciliations that Jesus brought to the ten lepers when he told them to go show themselves to the priest so that they could be reinstated in the community, or when he spoke to the woman at the well and the whole community was transformed by her testimony. Forgiving in this sense is about restoring the fullness of the relationship.

Reflection Questions:

1. Do you lock doors? Do you check to make sure they are locked at night or when you leave?
2. Are there parts of your life that you keep locked away?
3. Have you or someone you know well had the experience of being refused forgiveness by a parent, a priest, or someone they loved? How did that affect them?
4. Where do you encounter your own fears? Which of your fears are you grateful for? Which of your fears would you like to be free of? Are there aspects of your life that you know you are resistant to change?
5. Do you fear God?
6. In the text, the disciples thought that they had gathered in safety behind locked doors, and they discovered that they were being empowered by God to act, even though to do so made them more vulnerable. Has God ever worked that way in your life?
7. When have you found that God/Jesus was standing in your midst? What was that like?
8. When have you been moved by a passage of scripture, something someone said, the lyric of a song or poem, nature, or a personal experience? Do you attribute those experiences to the presence of the Holy Spirit? What does awareness or lack of it say to you?
9. In the Gospel, Jesus breathed on the disciples the breath of life, and told them they had the power to forgive and to bind sins. Can you take some time to talk to God about God’s desire to give this power to his disciples, and to you?

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