Year B: Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday
Appearance to the Disciples

John 20: 19-23

 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.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What causes fear in you, and how does fear block you from the flow of the Spirt? Explain
  2. Is the Holy Spirit a real and active part of your prayer life, or has it become more of a disconnected and unrelatable concept? Why or why not?
  3. What is your experience of the “gift of peace” Jesus gives, and how do you intentionally pass this peace to others?
  4. How is Pentecost a living reality for you? Where are you being sent forth by the Father, as Jesus and the disciples were? (Where are you bringing your gifts to places of need)
  5. How is the Spirit calling you to respond to a worldly environment of growing fear?

Biblical Context

John 20: 19-23
Margaret Nutting Ralph

The disciples are locked in a room, living in fear. The first words Jesus speaks to them are, “Peace be with you.” Jesus has earlier given the disciples this same gift of peace. At his last meal with them before his death Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you”‘ (John 14:27-28). Now, Jesus has come back to them, just as he promised, and he offers them peace.

John tells us that “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” This also is a fulfillment of a promise that Jesus made to the disciples at their last meal together. Jesus said to his disciples, “Are you discussing with one another what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy” (John 16:19-20). Then Jesus once more gives them the gift of peace: “Peace be with you.”

Jesus then commissions the disciples to carry on his mission to the world. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” At Jesus’ last meal with the disciples, he had earlier said what that mission is. Addressing his words to the Father, Jesus said that the Father has given his son “authority over all people, so that he 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” (John 17:2-3).

How are the disciples to have the power to carry on Jesus’ mission to the world? This ministry can be carried out only through the power of the Holy Spirit. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

This description of Jesus breathing on the disciples is one of John’s many allusions to the Book of Genesis. When God created the man in the garden God “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). Genesis is a story of creating the material world. John’s Gospel is the story of God’s re-creation, of God’s establishing a new spiritual order through Jesus Christ.

In the new spiritual order people are offered not only eternal life but the forgiveness of their sins: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Scripture scholars suggest that with these words John is describing the effect of baptism which is the forgiveness of sin. Those whose sins are retained are those who reject the gift of salvation that is offered them and are not initiated into the community. The disciples will have the power to carry on Jesus’ mission only in and through the Spirit.

Letting Peace Hold Our Wounds

John 20: 19-23
Fr. Michael K. Marsh

Jesus “showed them his hands and his side.”

That doesn’t sound a lot like Pentecost. When we think of Pentecost we usually think of the rush of a violent wind, divided tongues of fire, speaking in other languages, intoxicated by the Spirit. That’s how Luke describes it. But John’s account of Pentecost tells about locked doors, fear, wounds, peace, a shared breath, being sent.

In John’s gospel Pentecost is more quiet and intimate. It’s Easter evening and the disciples are afraid. They’re hiding behind locked doors. Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he showed them his wounds from the crucifixion. He showed them his hands and his side.

I wonder why Jesus did that. I wonder what he wanted them – what he wants us – to see.

I think there’s more to be seen than just the mark of the nails and the piercing of the sword. I think it’s about more than simply being able to identify Jesus as the one who was crucified. I think that in showing us his wounds Jesus is identifying with every person who has ever been or is wounded. I think the open wounds of Jesus hold the pain of the world.

And as the poet Warsan Shire writes in her poem, “What they did yesterday afternoon” that pain is everywhere:

 Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap,
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
Where does it hurt?

It answered

The wounded body of Jesus is an emblem of our wounded world. To look at Jesus’ hands and his side is to see the wounds we’ve received and the ones we’ve inflicted on others.

And I wonder what that brings up for you. What hurts your heart today? What are the tender spots of your life? What’s festering deep inside that you don’t want anyone to see? Where do you see another hurting? Can you hold his or her gaze, or do you look away because you just don’t want to see? In what ways have you and I added to the pain of another?

The daily news breaks my heart. I see fear. I see death. I see protests. I see anger. I see violence. I see prejudice and racism. I see arrogance. I see privilege. I see unemployment. I see poverty and economic hardship. Those are the open wounds of our country and we’re hemorrhaging. We’re bleeding out and some can’t breath.

America is in a hard place these days, and we have been for quite a while. Over the last few months of the coronavirus many have said that we’re all in this together. Yes, but we’re not all together in this. We are not “all together in one place” on this day of Pentecost. Our country is divided, fragmented, and wounded. And so is my heart. Maybe yours is too.

It’s not easy to talk about our wounds; whether it’s our individual wounds or our national wounds, whether it’s the wounds we’ve received or the ones we’ve inflicted. To talk about our wounds requires us to look at what we’ve done and left undone. It means we each have to look within ourselves. It means taking responsibility for our lives. It means valuing the life and wounds of another as much as our own.

We might need to confess and we might need to forgive. We might need to reach out to another and we might need to open ourselves to another’s reaching toward us. We might need to offer the ointment of healing to another and we might need to receive another’s ointment for our healing.

I know all that in my head and it makes sense. But most of the time I don’t want to face or deal with my wounds. It’s too painful. It’s a vulnerable and risky place to be. And maybe you feel like that too. More often than not I just want to deny that they hurt. I want to ignore or forget my wounds, relegate them to the past. I want to cover up and hide my wounds so you can’t see them. Sometimes I make judgments about and blame others. Other times I want to use my wounds, revel in them, and play the victim so I can get some attention or sympathy. And maybe worst of all is when I use them as a justification for hurting someone else.

But Jesus doesn’t do any of those things. Instead, he shows up behind the locked doors, stands among the disciples in the midst of their fear, and says, “Peace be with you.” Then he shows them his hands and his side. He shows them his wounds and then he says again, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus wounds sit in the middle of the peace he offers. Peace bookends both sides of his wounds. And what if that’s true for us? What if we all live with a wounded peace? What if the only real peace we can offer comes out of the wounds we’ve suffered?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says. What does that mean when you’re afraid and you’ve locked the doors of your house, your heart, your life?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says. What does that mean as we continue reopening the country and economy in the midst of COVID-19? What does that mean for the friends and family of the more than 100,000 people who have died from COVID-19? What does that peace mean when we continue to draw lines between those who wear masks and those who don’t, between politicians and scientists, between those who are able to stay home and those who have to get out and work?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says. What does that mean for George Floyd and his family and friends? What does that mean in light of America’s racism? What does that mean for the cities that are burning and the businesses that have been looted?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says. What does that mean for you and me today? What is this peace Jesus offers? What does it look like, feel like?

I don’t have a lot of answers to the questions I’ve asked. Each one of us must figure out how to be peace in this county. I can’t tell you how to do that, but I can tell you this. The peace Jesus offers doesn’t mean serenity or lack of conflict. And it doesn’t mean that we necessarily get our way.  And I think it’s more than a truce, an agreement to disagree, or the resignation to go along in order to get along.

The peace Jesus offers changes hearts. It sends people into the world. It heals lives and let’s all people breath. The peace Jesus offers will be found next to our wounds. It’s a wounded peace.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says.

What will you do with your wounded peace today? To whom will you offer it? And how will you let it make a difference in the life of another?

Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle B, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc.

Reflection excerpt from: Interrupting the Silence, Fr. Michael K. Marsh