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Archive for April 6th, 2018

Bright Week! Friday

 

From St. John 20:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

From Rev. Paul Kretzman’s Commentary on(Jesus) sent (the apostles) forth to preach the Gospel. For that is the summary and content of the Gospel, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And having named them thus as His messengers, as His ambassadors, the Lord formally inducts them into this office. He breathed on them, thus symbolizing the transmission of, and actually conveying to them, the Spirit who lived in Him, and whom He had the authority to bestow. The power of the Spirit was to be with them in the Word: If you remit the sins of any, they are remitted to them; if you retain those of any, they are retained. Thus they received the power to pronounce forgiveness of sins; thus was the Office of the Keys instituted. The forgiveness of sins which Jesus earned by His suffering and death should be imparted and given to men through the announcement of the Gospel, publicly and privately, to single persons and to large congregations. This is the absolution of sins. That is Christ’s will and commission: His disciples should pronounce forgiveness, should take away sins, and then everyone should know and believe that by such absolution his sins are actually forgiven and taken away. The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins. Only he that will not accept this forgiveness, this mercy, this salvation, thereby excludes himself from the grace of God. If such a one is told this fact, his sins are thereby retained. This power and authority was not the sole prerogative of the apostles, nor is it now in the hands of any hierarchy, but it accompanies the Gospel, it is contained in the commission of Christ to all His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations. To the believers in general, to the Christian congregation that proclaims the message of the Gospel, the keys are given. The pastors that exercise this authority do so in the name of the congregation. (emphasis my own)

We are now in 6th day of the 50 Paschal days of Easter.  In 40 days, St. Luke reported that our Lord ascended into heaven. In 50 days, as the Lord promised, the Holy Spirit would descend on the 12 with Mary the Mother of our Lord.  Significantly the giving of the Holy Spirit occurred on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost:

“The term Pentecost comes from the Greek Πεντηκοστή (Pentēkostē) meaning “fiftieth” (50th). It refers to the festival celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, also known as the “Feast of Weeks” in the Septuagint[i] and the “Feast of 50 days” in rabbinic tradition” (From Wikipedia). 

On Pentecost, the Apostle Peter preached the first Christian Sermon in Jerusalem in the glare of the public eye.  Quite a change from the man who last week Friday, Good Friday, denied the Lord three times and after the Crucifixion was hiding out with his brother disciples in a locked room for fear of their lives!  What changed?  Jesus had: He was risen from the dead!  His Body was now glorified as ours will be (Philippians 3:21  1 Corinthians 15:53).  The fact of the last days had dawned: Jesus is risen. The eternal peace/shalom of the Lord would spread in the Holy  Spirit as Jesus promised,

“…   you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1). 

How did it so spread? This is what is miraculous about the Lord’s Resurrection,as Mr. George Weigel wrote about his article, The Easter Effect (Wall Street Journal):

In the year 312, just before his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge won him the undisputed leadership of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great had a heavenly vision of Christian symbols. That augury led him, a year later, to end all legal sanctions on the public profession of Christianity.

Or so a pious tradition has it.

But there’s a more mundane explanation for Constantine’s decision: He was a politician who had shrewdly decided to join the winning side. By the early 4th century, Christians likely counted for between a quarter and a half of the population of the Roman Empire, and their exponential growth seemed likely to continue.

How did this happen? How did a ragtag band of nobodies from the far edges of the Mediterranean world become such a dominant force in just two and a half centuries?

In a nutshell, Mr. Weigel said it was plain:  Jesus had risen from the dead!  Upon the disciples, “…the end of the ages” (1 Corinthians 10:10-12) had come, us as well.  Just think: after over two centuries of persecution, from mild to severe, including martyrdom, up a half of the Roman Empire was Christian.  Why?  He is risen, He risen indeed, Alleluia!

The Lord’s Resurrection was  the genesis.  As Pope Benedict XIV pointed out:

“Easter does not work magic. Just as the Israelites found the desert awaiting them on the far side of the Red Sea, so the Church, after the Resurrection, always finds history filled with joy and hope, grief and anguish. And yet this history is changed…it is truly open to the future.

History is open to the future in hope on account of Christ Jesus and we are in the wilderness of this world   The Apostles and the Church went forth to conquer an Empire without drawing the sword, waging jihad orthe support of government.  The sword they wielded was the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6: 17).  His Word encourages  that the risen  Lord calls us to wage peace, not worldly peace, but the Godly peace of His forgiveness which He breathes upon His Church. With the Apostle Paul, Lord calls us to wage the good fight of faith for the salvation of many.

 

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