Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven - Second Sunday of Easter (A) 2020

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven - Second Sunday of Easter (A) 2020

Through the Gospel reading today we are, at first, taken back to the evening of the resurrection. We are told that, though the doors were locked, the Lord suddenly appeared among his disciples. He greeted them: “Peace be with you.”

Then he spoke to them about the forgiveness of sins: “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”

This must have surprised the disciples. Of all the things the risen Lord could have spoken to them about, it was the forgiveness of sins that was uppermost in his mind. Why was this so important?

Here we are taken to the heart of what the Lord had accomplished through his death and resurrection. Why did he go to Calvary? In the end it was so that sin could be forgiven. Jesus offered himself as the sacrificial lamb in the great act of atonement. Humanity was redeemed, reconciled with God. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross opened the floodgates of God’s mercy. Like a mighty flood, divine mercy flows forth upon humanity.

In the heart of the Father lies a depth of mercy just waiting to be poured forth. The Lord’s parable of the prodigal son revealed this truth.

Appearing to his disciples for the first time after his resurrection, Jesus gave authority to them to become ministers of this mercy. Prior to giving this authority to them, he breathed on them and imparted the Holy Spirit to them. They were entrusted with sacramental power: “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”

God the Father had one single purpose in sending his Son – it was to reconcile humanity with Himself. Humanity had broken its relationship with God in the Fall and all subsequent sin.

Jesus commenced his public ministry with the words, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is close at hand.” His ministry was a path for reconciliation. Now though his death and resurrection the Kingdom has been inaugurated. Those who repent will receive forgiveness. The Church will be the instrument by which this forgiveness is dispensed. It is dispensed through the sacrament of Penance.

In the light of this we can understand why the Lord asked St Faustina to promote the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Gospel today announces that divine mercy will now flow upon humanity through the sacrament of that mercy, the sacrament of Penance.

Let us consider Thomas for a moment because he is a particular subject in the Gospel today. He refused to accept the testimony of the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. Like so many among contemporary humanity, he demanded proof: I will believe only if I am convinced.

When next Jesus appeared, a week later, he addressed Thomas in particular and invited him to put his fingers into the holes that the nails have made. He is asked to put his hand – his hand – into the pierced side of Christ. Touch the wounds, Thomas! Not only look at them but touch them!
The touch was powerful, convicting. Thomas is overcome. He bowed in adoration: “My Lord and my God.”

The Prophet Isaiah said centuries before: “By his wounds you are healed.” For Thomas this was made personal and real.

For us all, it is the wounds of Christ that have affected our healing, the healing of our souls. That is why light flows from the pierced heart of Jesus in the Divine Mercy image. Healing light. The image invites us to focus our attention on the wounds.

Like Thomas we need to touch the wounds. The wounds need to be absolutely real for us. Our direct contact with the wounds can melt our hardened hearts as it melted Thomas’ heart.

We are blind to the seriousness of our sins, blind to what our sins have done. We are particularly blind to what our sins have done to the heart of God. We regularly dismiss their significance, make light of the damage they do. Sin is real. Sin is damaging. Sin releases evil. Sin deals death.

God takes sin seriously, very seriously. So seriously that He asked his Son to go to Calvary.

But today is about forgiveness. Today is about mercy. Let us hear the words of the Lord and take them to heart: “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday 19 April 2020

To watch the Mass which live streamed from St Mary's Cathedral, click here.