Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see the Church now with some time under her belt, living each and every day within the experience of our Lord’s Resurrection on the third day (Ac. 5:12-20).  Indeed, the Church always lives – even 20 centuries later – within that experience regardless of whether her baptized sons and daughters choose to do so.  The Truth, the Reality, the Power of the Resurrection which gives the Church her life is not dependent upon the subjective emotions and feelings of the faithful.  The Disciples are huddled together in the Upper Room in fear despite the objective reality and truth that “Christ is risen!”.  The Resurrection power is always present in the Church precisely because of the promise of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ following His Resurrection from the dead, “’And lo, I AM with you always, even to the end of the world’” (Mt. 28:20).  Whether or not I choose to believe this and then to tap into His resurrectional power, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit Who continually abides or tabernacles in the Temple of the Church, not to mention in the temples of our physical bodies (Jn. 7:39; 14:17; 1 Cr. 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2 Cr. 6:16), is up to me.  Ultimately, it is I who must believe in Him and in what He has accomplished on my behalf.  Our Lord comes to His Apostles on the night of His Resurrection, but each one of them must believe in the crucified One Who stands before them, place their faith, hope, and love in Him, and trust Him as “’My Lord and my God,’” “My Master and my King” (St. Ephraim’s Prayer).  “’Lord, I beleve . . . .’” (Mk. 9:24).

On the evening of Pascha, our crucified and risen Lord comes to His Apostles gathered together in the Upper Room, and conveys to them His living Presence, His true and real Presence, His saving and sanctifying grace, and thus by extension to the Church which is apostolic, which is to say, the Church of the Apostles.  And, He says to them, to the Church, to us, “’Peace be unto you.  As My Father hath sent Me, even so I send you.’”  “Just as My Father has sent Me into the world to accomplish His will, so I am sending you.  And so that you may share in My power, My authority, I breathe on you the Holy Spirit, just as I promised you on the night of My betrayal.  I give to you of Myself.  I impart of Myself to you and to the Church that has come forth from My pierced side as Eve did from Adam’s side.  You are now flesh of My flesh and bone of My bone (Gn. 2:23).  Whoever listens to you, listens to Me; whoever rejects you, rejects Me.  ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me’” (Lk. 10:16; Jn. 13:20).  Indeed, “’Whosoever sins ye remit [forgive], they are remitted [forgiven] unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.’” 

This is not the first time that Jesus has given His Apostles to share in His power and authority.  If you recall, when He sent them out He gave them power and authority to preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, and to cast out the demons (Mt. 10:5-15; Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 9:1-6).  But, this is the first time He has granted them the divine power and authority – His divine power and authority – to truly remit the sins of the repentant, that is, to do what Jesus did on earth.  If you recall all the events leading up to our Lord’s Great and Holy Passion, one of the prime issues was precisely that Jesus forgave sins – a prerogative belonging solely unto God as the chief priests and others constantly and rightly asserted against Him (Mt. 9:1-8; Mk. 2:1-12; Lk. 5:17-26).  By remitting sins, Jesus was assuming the work of God.  And, in fact, thereby making Himself to be God – the very charge that will crucify Him (Mt. 26:57-68; Mk. 15:53-65; Lk. 22:66-71; Jn. 19:5-7; Pp. 2:5-11)!

And yet, it is very clear here what our crucified and risen Lord is doing and bestowing to His Apostles, and ultimately, to the Church: His power and authority to absolve sin or to retain it, in the case of the impenitent.  No one but Jesus Christ forgives sins prior to His Resurrection.  But, immediately following His Resurrection from the dead, He breathes on His Apostles and the Church founded upon them His Holy Spirit, granting them this divine power and authority.  He transfers to His Apostles and the apostolic Church this grace so that sinners may rest assured of God’s forgiveness or, if in retaining sins, to lead the stubborn of heart to repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  The Church is the Body of Christ God, the Presence of Jesus in the midst of the world.  She speaks with His power and authority and she acts with His power and authority (Mt. 16:13-19; 18:15-20; Ac. 5:1-20).

It seems significant to me, beloved, that our crucified and risen Lord elects to do this on the very first evening of His Resurrection, linking together the peace of God that He has obtained for us by the blood of His Cross (Co. 1:20), the breathing or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the Mystery of the Remission of sins, again, “through His blood” (Co. 1:14).  In fact, this breathing out of the breath of God upon the Apostles here is strongly reminiscent of when God created the first man “and breathed upon his face the breath of life, and the man became a living soul” (Gn. 2:7).  In the Upper Room of that evening of Pascha, in breathing upon them His divine Life-giving breath, the Apostles are made the living and breathing nucleus of the Church that is sent out with divine orders and with divine authority and power to preach repentance and to remit the sins of all who repent, whether it be in the Mystery of Holy Baptism or in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist or in the ongoing Mystery of Repentance and Reconciliation we know as Confession and Absolution (Lk. 24:47).  The peace of God has been once-for-all made in the once-and-only Sacrifice of the Son of God (Hb. 7:27; 9:26, 28; 10:12, 14).  The blood of the Lamb of God has been offered up once, but His blood is applied to the lintel of our hearts again and again in the Mystery of Repentance and Reconciliation.  He gives His gift to the Church only after He has secured for all time our redemption by His Cross and Resurrection.   Truly, it is as the psalmist has foreseen,

Thou hast been gracious, O Lord, . . . Thou didst forgive Thy people their iniquity, Thou hast covered all their sin. . . . I will hear what the Lord God will speak . . ., for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints, to those turning their hearts to Him (Ps. 84 [85]:1-2, 8). 

Beloved, the God of all the universe, of all things created, both visible and invisible, has gone to extreme lengths to save, restore, and reconcile us to Himself.  The Son of the true and living God, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, has made peace, reconciling us to the Father and to one another now through His blood shed on the Cross for the remission of sins (Ep. 1:7; 2:13-18; 1 Pe. 1:18-21; 1 Jn. 1:7-9; Rv. 13:8).  And so, to us all He grants us His great and rich mercy.  The God of all peace has done this and it is wonderful in our eyes (Ps. 117 [118]:23)!         

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!


Ac. 5:12-20

Jn. 20:19-31