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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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“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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Armenia_1988“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live (John 14:15-19).
 
There may be no greater assurance in times of trouble than the promise, “I will be there for you.” In that vein, I was touched by a story I read in Chicken Soup for the Soul which reminded me of Jesus’ promise to his disciples in today’s Gospel: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
 
This is a true story from the devastating 1989 Armenian earthquake that took only minutes to kill thirty thousand people. Moments after the earthquake rocked the country, a father ran to the elementary school to search for his son. When the father arrived, he saw that the school had been leveled. He remembered his promise to his son: “No matter what happens, I will be there for you.” He went to the area that had been his son’s classroom and began to dig, removing rock by rock from the rubble. Others began to arrive—parents, policemen, and firemen—and soon they told him his efforts were useless, all are lost. As others stood paralyzed and sobbing, the young father kept digging. For eight hours, then 16, then 32, then 36 hours, he dug—he would not be deterred.
 
Finally, after thirty-eight hours, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice. He called out to his boy, “Armand! Armand!” And a voice answered him, “Dad, it’s me!” The boy continued, “I told the other kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive, you’d save me, and when you saved me, they’d be saved too. Because you promised me, ‘No matter what, I’ll always be there for you.’”
 
In today’s gospel passage, which is from the farewell discourse, Jesus extends the sentiment “I will be there for you” to his closet companions. Jesus knows they will soon witness his suffering and death. They will be wrought with fear and pain as he his torn from them. He promises them that he will send his own Spirit to come as Advocate, protector, and divine friend. He will not leave them orphaned; he will abide with them and accompany them on their life journey through the power of his Spirit.
 
No matter what may come our way, we can face it with confidence and hope, knowing we are never alone. God will keep his promise to us—he will always be there for us. The promise that we will not be left orphaned when Jesus returns to his Father; the promise that the Spirit sent by Jesus will abide with us and all believers; the promise that the love of God that comes to us through the Spirit will overflow into the lives of others.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him’” (John 14:15-21).
 
During these final weeks of the Easter season, the Church invites us to linger with Jesus and his disciples in an intimate farewell the night before he died. He is deeply sensitive to their human fears and hopes, and he hears the disciples’ unspoken need for something to hold onto as he seems about to abandon them.
 
Today, Jesus hears our need for the same reassurance. Writers of both the Old Testament and New Testament repeatedly remind us that the God of love delights in making and keeping promises. Jesus fulfills that tradition by giving his friends—and us—a series of remarkable promises: “Though I disappear from you physically, I will not leave you orphans.” “I will remain with you through my Spirit.” “To those who obey my commands, I will reveal myself.”
 
We will need to recall these promises many times during our lives when it seems as if we are suffering alone. The action of the Spirit who is Love connects the promises of an abiding presence with a new kind of knowledge. Jesus promises a depth of knowledge available only to those who obey his commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” To love like this is immensely challenging, but what a reward it brings: “To those who obey my commands I will reveal myself.”
 
Those who work among the poor sometimes say they know what it means to experience love as a way of knowing—not only knowing each other but also knowing everything better through each other. Mother Teresa made no formal study of economics or psychology but lived among the destitute on the streets of Calcutta, listening to their needs, healing their bodily and spiritual wounds, knowing them in a way most others could not. To those who love as Mother Teresa loved, the poor are a mystery in which God is waiting to be revealed. That’s why those who work among the poor often say “I receive much more than I give.”
 
– How do promises you have exchanged with friends and family strengthen you when you feel weak?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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