The readings for the Second Sunday of Easter make it clear that God engages His people in a new way, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spent three years presenting His followers with the truth of God’s love for them, and He extended to His people the invitation to return that love.
At times, they briefly experienced the power of God’s love when they witnessed a miracle, but that brief experience of love quickly faded. They didn’t experience God’s love as a permanent daily possession.
All of that changed when Christ appeared to the apostles and disciples on Easter Sunday night. They were a confused, forlorn, despondent, disappointed and guilt ridden group of followers. They were behind locked doors, living in fear that crucifixion was in their immediate future.
The pain of grieving Jesus’ crucifixion was intensified by their guilt of having abandoned Him in His hour of need.
Into the midst of this despondency, the risen Jesus appears. Twice He said to them: “Peace be with you!” That isn’t what they were prepared to hear. A severe reprimand from Jesus might have been expected.
Yet He joyfully showed them His pierced hands and pierced side. At the sight of the Lord, His disciples rejoiced. Then He said: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He then breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them! If you hold them bound, they are held bound.”
Imagine the initial disbelief and then the shock of joy that jolted the disciples out of their despondency. Suddenly God’s Holy Spirit entered their hearts and transformed them.
Suddenly their guilt, self-condemnation, self-loathing and grief were transformed into inexplicable joy. Light has overcome darkness. Joy has overcome sorrow. Mercy has overcome guilt.
However, now they feel honored to have been invited to do what Jesus did. They have been commissioned to go out into the whole world and teach the people what they had been taught. They have been given the dignity to extend, in Jesus name, forgiveness for all sins.
Heaven entered the Upper Room and brought God’s love into man’s misery, to transform that misery into hope-filled and meaningful living. God has become engaged with mankind.
When a young man and a young woman find each other attractive, they share their love with each other more and more. When they decide to make this a permanent commitment, they enter into an engagement, and then marriage.
That is what Christ initiated in the Upper Room. There, the three persons of the Holy Trinity announced their engagement with mankind. However, this was a different kind of engagement party. When God engages mankind in a covenant of love, God never takes back His commitment. Even if man breaks his part of the bargain, God will never relent on His commitment to love to the end.
Not only does the Holy Spirit engage His people in His love, but He also gives His people that same power to engage each other with that same kind of love. That helps us to understand the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. “The community of believers was of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather everything was held in common.”
What formerly belonged to them, now belongs to God, and what formerly belonged to others now belongs to them, because it belongs to God and they belong to God. In other words, people are now engaged to their God and through God to each other. This engagement is fueled by God’s love. Now, to give is to be enriched by God’s love. As one person told me recently: “The more I give away, the more God gives me to give away!”
Think of what a difference this can make in our interpersonal engagements. If we are really engaged with God, then we will be engaged in giving out God’s gifts to ourselves. As He forgives our faults, so we want to pass along to others that same forgiveness. As others reach out in kindness, so we want to pass along the joy of sharing with others that same kindness.
As God stands with us as we go through suffering and disappointment, so we want to strengthen others by engaging them and accompanying them in their sorrow. In the second reading, Paul helps us to understand what happens when we do these things. “We can be sure that we love God’s children when we love God and do what He has commanded.”
All of this and more is what the Holy Spirit gives us when we open our hearts to Him. The Holy Spirit of God thirsts to have a free roam in our hearts. Surprises come to us as we allow Him into our prayers, decision-making and daily work. God desires each of us to become evangelists for Him, to introduce His gifts to others. When others get ‘bitten’ by His love, their lives change. The Holy Spirit starts having new fun with others as He gives them permission to try Him on in real living!
The gift that makes the Holy Spirit so attractive to others is His gift of peace in you. When others see that you are peaceful in living and sharing His gifts, they are attracted to Him.