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“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’” (John 20:19-23).
 
In John’s Gospel, the silent, reassuring way Jesus came into the room was much like the way he comes into our hearts. This quiet scene is rich with both literal and symbolic significance. The locked door reveals that Jesus’ glorified body was different, uninhibited by the limitations of earthly bodies. Even more significant is God’s entrance into a heart locked by fear, prejudice, or unpleasant memories. When Jesus—without fanfare—simply stood in the midst of his frightened disciples, it suggested that from then on, his real presence would be found in the community of believers. Finally, with the symbolic gesture of breathing, Jesus signaled the infusion of an even more intense presence and power, the life-giving breath of the Spirit.
 
Since this scene took place on the Sunday evening of the Resurrection, Jesus’ first concern was to convince his startled audience that they were not seeing things. To prove that he was indeed the same person they saw nailed to the cross, he showed them his wounds. Jesus offers us the same proof of his presence by showing us the wounds all around us, not just on battlefields or in hospitals but in slums and prisons, and even in our own living rooms. Recognizing Jesus in the wounded and serving him there opens the community to receive all that he wants to give when he repeats the powerful word, “Peace.”
 
Jesus commissioned them and fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit to empower them in their work. Then, the first thing Jesus told them to do with their new power was to forgive. Forgiveness opens the door to peace. Forgiveness liberates the one who forgives as well as the one forgiven. Even more, the human act of forgiveness releases the power of the Spirit into the community. Think of the power of John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin; Nelson Mandela working for reconciliation with the very people who had imprisoned him; or the Amish of Pennsylvania reaching out in forgiveness to the family of the man who had killed a number of their young girls. Forgiveness has the power to transform our lives if we allow the Spirit to work. Imagine how different the history of the world would be, how different our daily headlines would be, if we acted out the Pentecost Gospel: “Receive the Holy Spirit of forgiveness. Open the door to peace.”
 
- Who in your life are you called to forgive, and from whom do you need to seek forgiveness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Pope_Francis_Western_WallAs the disciples came to meet Jesus on a mountain just before his ascension into heaven, he gave them the commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). Perhaps not by coincidence then, Pope Francis’ recent trip to the Middle East, in which many of his stops were characterized by ecumenical or peace-making intent, fell on the weekend before the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Pope Francis carried with him a sincere desire to take the love of Christ into areas ravaged by war, terrorism, and feuding based on religious, political, or ideological differences that have lasted for decades or longer.
 
In light of this trip, and of the constant barrage of news reports about world destruction, we might wonder how we can make bringing the light of Christ to all nations a reality in our daily lives. Most of us do not have the resources to travel the world nor the time to spend long stints as missionaries in foreign countries. We also do not have the ability to meet with great dignitaries or political figures as does our Holy Father. However, all of this is not to say that we can’t learn a lot from his example, or from the many great missionary saints for that matter, in order to apply this teaching to our lives.
 
For those living in the United States, or nations with great diversity, the answer should come easily. Often in our own local communities there are a large variety of ethnicities and religions that give us ample opportunity to cross cultural boundaries. In his trip, Pope Francis met with Holocaust survivors, prayed at the Western Wall, and met Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church to discuss Christian unity. These are just a few examples of actions he performed in order to highlight the need for peace and understanding in the Middle East. Likewise, in our own communities, there are ample opportunities to explore what is beyond our current scope of living. Here are just a few examples: visit a Shabbat service with a Jewish friend while reciprocating with an invitation to attend Mass; attend a Mass in another language, or organize an interdenominational dinner in order to highlight Christian unity.
 
Recently I had an opportunity to do something just like this. While volunteering at a local library, I got to know a young woman who was a non-practicing Baptist. After a while of getting to know one another, eventually we landed on the topic of religion. As she got to know more about my Catholic background I got to know more about her Baptist background. This led to invitations to visit each other’s churches. These experiences, from which we both gained, could not have happened had either of us decided to stay within our comfort zones. During his trip, Pope Francis illustrated, as have many other popes and saints, that making disciples of all nations does not mean that we call others to come to us, but that we go out to others. Often, however, this is not a one-way street; just as Pope Francis saw Christ in the Holocaust survivors he met with, but was also Christ to them through a kiss on each of their hands, we can also both bring Christ to and see Christ in areas surrounding us that we may have overlooked.
 
- What are some of the ways that separations in our community distract us from bringing Christ to others or seeing Christ in others?
 
Matt is a summer intern for RENEW’s Publications & Resources team and will begin a master’s degree program at Providence College in the fall.

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“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16-20).
 
In Scripture, a landscape is always something more than a place. A story’s geographical location can also be both a spiritual symbol and a mood-setter—like the soundtrack for a good movie. This story opens in a specific place, a mountain top in Galilee where the disciples had met Jesus before. Jesus used that familiar geography to ground his friends emotionally when he came to “blow them away.” The setting of this story recalls other mountains where God had spoken to his people. On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the commandments. On Mount Tabor, Jesus revealed his divinity. On another hillside, he delivered the Sermon on the Mount, laying out the code of Christian conduct. All he had to say was “Meet me on our mountain,” and it triggered memories and the expectation that something new was about to be proclaimed to t Jesus’ inner circle.
 
This last meeting between Jesus and the eleven took place between Easter and Pentecost.The Church calls it “The Commissioning.” Jesus, who had been given universal power, gave the disciples the universal mission to “make disciples of all nations.” They were told to baptize the nations into a union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teach them “to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus challenged them to preach his moral teaching and to imitate his radical lifestyle with the promise of his real, though unseen, presence to support and strengthen them all along the way.
 
- How do you feel Jesus’ real but unseen presence in your life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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“Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
‘I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you’” (John 17:1-11a).
 
As we conclude the Easter season, John’s Gospel invites us into the prayer with which Jesus ended his farewell speech. Here the Son spoke directly to the Father and shared his intimacy with a divine Parent who knows and loves us unconditionally.
 
When Jesus’ prayer began, “Father, the hour has come,” the disciples did not know what he meant. But we do. We know that Jesus’ last hours were full of pain and suffering, so when we read that he spoke of an hour of glory, it is startling. In Old Testament language, glory signifies God’s invisible presence manifested as radiance. After Jesus’ death for others, God’s redeeming presence radiated in a new way throughout all times and places and within individual lives. As Jesus’ life asks us to redefine power, so his death asks us to redefine glory.
 
Until John’s Gospel, written about sixty years after the Resurrection, most people understood glory as a reward bestowed in the afterlife. John, however, wrote of glory as an immediate outcome of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, a continual showing forth of divine energy at work in the world. This understanding of glory gave Jesus surprising confidence in his followers: “the words you gave to me I have given to them.” Even though all but a few abandoned him, Jesus said to the Father, “I have been glorified in them.” Jesus loved and trusted even them, giving us assurance that God loves us even when we least deserve it.
 
Jesus made one of the clearest, most direct statements in the whole New Testament: “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” To know the love of God the way Jesus knows it is the whole reason for our lives, and each of us who develops a personal relationship with Jesus will find it.
 
- How can you share with others the words given to you?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Have you noticed how God has a way of leading us through various adventures in life which can allow us to make connections with special people? Most of the people I hold dearest in my life I met in interesting ways.
 
I have a new friend. I met him just this week, and I already sense a spiritual connection to him. One of the unique things about him is that he died when I was just a few weeks old. I now have a better appreciation of the communion of saints we profess in the Apostles’ Creed.
 
On a recent trip to New York I found myself praying in a chapel. I noticed several prayer cards bearing the photo of a priest about my age with the title Servant of God, Naval Chaplain, Fr. Vincent Capodanno, MM.
 
Servant of God. That really caught my attention and my interest. That’s what I want to be. That’s what I strive to do each day. I don’t always do it well, but it’s the core of what I hope to accomplish each day as I wake up and begin anew. Also, as a veteran, I was curious to learn more about Fr. Vincent’s story. I keep one of his prayer cards on my desk now for inspiration.
 
I learned that Fr. Vincent served as a military chaplain in the Vietnam War. In conducting his ministry to the dying troops on the battlefield Fr. Vincent was wounded himself but refused medical care as he urgently kept working. An infantryman who was wounded and assisted by Fr. Vincent recalls hearing this priest exhort him, “Stay calm, Marine. Someone will be here to help soon. God is with us all here today.”
 
Fr. Vincent volunteered and gave all he could to serve and minister to his troops. In fact, he gave even his life while protecting a fallen comrade in 1967. Isn’t that a profound example of what Jesus taught?
 
My new spiritual friend, Fr. Vincent Capodanno, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and a cause for his beatification has been initiated. Books, videos, and websites abound about his selfless commitment, bravery, and holiness. The impact this Servant of God had on those he served is evidenced by testimony of people who admitted that they would have been willing to die in his place.
 
God led me all the way to New York to meet my new spiritual friend from Staten Island. He, in turn, has taught me the priceless value of selfless service and to always remember that “God is with us all here today.”
 
Where is God leading you today?
 
View a rare video of Fr. Vincent Capodanno serving on duty.
 
Portrait of Fr. Capodanno by Sharon Clossick.
 
Christopher Burns is a member of RENEW International’s Resources and Publications team.

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