The problem with many passages of the Gospel is that they are very simple. We can so easily miss the point. That is why it is necessary to take into account the whole when reading a part, or, at least to take into account other passages of Scripture.
Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection have a pedagogical role. He is telling his apostles deep truths that have to be put into practice not only by the apostles but by all of Christ’s followers in the future generations.
In the Gospel according to St. John, when Christ appears to the apostles for the first time, we see Jesus, in just three verses (Jn 20:21-23), do three things:
- He entrusts a mission to his apostles: his own
- He gives them his Spirit, the Holy Spirit
- He gives them the power to forgive sins
Therefore, to be able to get the message we have to reflect on these three things: the mission, the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins.
True apostolate: continuing the mission of Christ
Jesus wants us to continue his mission. To understand how, it is necessary to consider the essential elements of why the Father sent Him. There are two passages that highlight this. The first, Jn 3:16-17, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
In order to continue Christ’s mission the apostles have to be filled with the same love that Christ has for all. It is not about considering ourselves better, looking down at others. It is about doing everything possible to help others to know Christ. He who loves Christ should make him known to others.
The second, 1 Jn 4:9-10, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” In order to continue Christ’s mission we must offer sacrifice for our sins and the sins of others.
In the Gospels, especially in St. John’s, we find Jesus clearly referring to the fact that he has been sent by the Father and for what purpose. In the Gospel of Luke we find the following statement:
“After spending some time in Capernaum healing the sick, the crowds went looking for him trying to prevent him from leaving them. He told them: “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent” (Lk 4:43).
If we are to continue Christ’s mission we need to preach Christ for the kingdom of God is present in him.
The divine component: receive the Holy Spirit
Jesus Christ was both human and divine. We are just human. How can we continue the mission of Christ, if we are not divine? Jesus gives us his Spirit. In the letter to the Romans, St. Paul teaches us that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). To continue Christ’s mission we count on the presence of the Holy Spirit so that we can love our fellow human beings with the very love of God.
How seriously do we take the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and thanks to this indwelling we will receive the glorification of our bodies as Christ did in the Resurrection? St. Paul reminds us:
“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies, through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom 8:11)
The battle against sin: the forgiveness of sins
Christ was without sin and he became incarnate, suffered and died in order to redeem us from sin. There is an objective and a subjective side to this redemption. Jesus has done away with sin he has given us the possibility to be in communion with him. This is the objective side of redemption. The subjective side is that we have to freely accept and live according to the redemption Christ won for us. But it also implies, sadly, that we can prefer sin and reject that redemption, emptying the cross and the resurrection of their meaning. St. Paul reflecting on the depth of the mystery of our participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ through baptism and the benefit of not having to be slaves of sin anymore, asks vehemently: “How can we who died to sin yet live in it?” (Rom 6:2)
Jesus Christ knowing that we would always have the possibility of giving in to temptation during our sojourn in this life, gave us the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation for the forgiveness of sins. Let us value this sacrament and go to it frequently, since continuing Christ’s mission demands from us not live in sin, and to help others with our example of striving to live for God. The Risen Lord wants us to heed to the words of St. Paul:
“As to his [Jesus’] death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:10-11)