Happy Birthday. Pentecost marks the birth of the Church. You all don’t look a day over 2022. What a difference a day makes! So much can happen in a few minutes that can change the course of history.
Look at the difference that Jesus made in just three years of ministry. He turned the world upside down. There is no doubt that Jesus wanted to reform Judaism. He loved His religious tradition. Yet, there were issues that had to change and those is authority were unwilling to change. Keep in mind that for the first 150 years the religious practices overlapped. Folks went to the Synagogue on Saturday and celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Sunday. The first Council in Jerusalem was to decide if every Christian male had to be circumcised or not. Obviously, the decision was that circumcision was not necessary in order to embrace the Christian Faith. Took a long time for people to let go of traditions that were not as important as originally thought. Jesus taught that people were more important than tradition. The philosophy of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” just leaves everyone blind and toothless. The Lord did not advocate punishment, even when deserved. He forgave those who crucified Him. Jesus told stories that often did not make logical sense. For example, a young son left home, spent his father’s money and then returned to find open arms were waiting for him. Not only was there no castigation, but a party was celebrated because he had come home. Another story was about a man who had a vineyard and hired workers at different times of the day but at the end of the day, paid them all the same amount. What might seem unfair to us is not unfair to God.
God’s ways are different from our ways. Yet, we are surprised that God does not strike some people down with lightning because we have judged them to be diabolical. But stop to think. Who would escape? Who among us is free of sin? We all need forgiveness. The only difference is between the folks who recognize their sins and those who are in denial. Always easier to recognize the faults in others than to see our own deficiencies. Today we remember the disciples behind locked doors who were afraid for their lives. Not only were they hiding in order to avoid being killed; they were hiding to avoid questions. They had all runaway and left Jesus to die. Our roots began with a small group of frightened people. They not only felt guilty; they were guilty. The disciples fell into the category of cowards. Their priority to was save themselves.
Then Jesus came. He didn’t laugh at them or accuse them or condemn them. Jesus wished them peace. When we are angry, when someone has hurt us, when we want to get even with someone we rarely think about peace. Our Lord was above all the pettiness of human frailty. The group must have looked so afraid that His first word to them was “peace be with you.” “Calm down—relax—I’m not angry.” There is no greater peace than the peace that comes from feeling forgiven. With a glance full of love Jesus absolved His disciples. Naturally, Jesus knew that they would continue to mess up. So, He told them, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” In other words, He gave them the key to happiness—a way out of the madness of revenge. While guns seem like the only answer to our problems in the world, Jesus has a better solution—forgiveness. We always have a choice. We can choose between life and death. Forgiveness gives life; resentments bring death. The decision is ours. Others can tell by the look on our face—whether we are filled with love or have anger in our soul. Jesus granted us the power to undo the hurt or hang on to sin. We get offended every day or we offend someone.
We are called to let go of the past, to forgive and trust in God’s mercy. There is no better way to celebrate our birthday than to forgive.