Second Sunday of Easter
Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with Sincerity,
Only Discerning Eyes recognize Jesus
First Reading (Acts 5:12-16): The apostles performed miracles
Second Reading (Rev 1:9-11,12-13,17-19): Vision of the Son of Man
Gospel (John 20:19-31): Jesus appeared to the Apostles and to Thomas
-“The King of Wei looks exceptionally distinguished, yet it is the man holding the sword beside the couch who is the hero” (1)
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you,’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn 20-: 19-23)
This is the Scriptural passage which most clearly gives the foundation for Catholics' belief in the Sacrament of Confession, or Reconciliation. But only God has the power to forgive sin. So in the Sacrament of Reconciliation it is not the apostles who forgive sin, nor the bishops, the Apostles' successors, nor the priests ordained by the bishops, but Christ himself. That is the sacrament. In theological terms, Christ is present in the person of the priest. It is Christ himself who forgives the sin.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are born again and in God become a new creation. But in this new creation there can occur frustration, wounds, even failure and death. We must be re-born again and again. We need to be forgiven our sins. We need a sacrament designed especially for sinners, so that in the Church we can be reconciled with God and with others. We need to receive new life in Christ again and through God’s grace stand up again.
The Paschal Feast we celebrate each year is meaningful in substance and is truly effective. For the newly baptized it is an actual process of rebirth, because they are baptized with water on that Easter Vigil night and receive new supernatural life in Christ, new life as children of God. For those already baptized, if they have received the sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent, they also can celebrate their own rebirth in Christ, so that their lives are more deeply rooted in the love of God.
Certainly Christ did not become incarnate only for the small group of people who lived in Palestine two thousand years ago. No, Christ became a human being for all people of all generations. “I am with you always, to the end of the ages.” (Mt 28:20)
The Word of God was made flesh and lives among us, so that he can be in contact with us personally, allowing everyone to hear his voice, see his face and feel his boundless love.
But how can he do this? Two thousand years ago, he touched people through the 'physical sign of his body,' today he meets us and is in contact with us through 'the signs of the sacraments.'
Actually the Jesus who lived in Nazareth in Palestine two thousand years ago, was also a 'sign.' Those who had faith could 'see' that beyond his physical person Jesus was divine and was the Messiah. Those who did not believe in God might only ask, 'Isn't he the son of a carpenter?' How could this ordinary inconspicuous son of a carpenter possibly be the Son of God?
If Jesus lived in Hong Kong today, most of us Hong Kong people might not accept him either, for what we could touch or see would also be only his body, the 'physical sign' of what is hidden within.
Therefore, we need to look at Jesus through the eyes of faith, look at his body and at the sacraments he established. We must look at Jesus the whole person and his presence which supersedes time and space and even beyond.
In 'Shi Shuo Xin Yu' there is a short story about a Hun envoy who paid a visit to the court of Tsao Tsao. The King of Wei, Tsao Tsao, knew that he did not look very distinguished and feared he could not intimidate the barbaric visitor. So he asked a man with a distinguished appearance to take his place while he played the role of a guard holding a sword and standing next to the ‘King’ of Wei’s couch. The Hun envoy who had never seen Tsao Tsao had a distinctly different impression.
He said, “The King of Wei (that is, the one pretending to be Tsao Tsao) looks exceptionally distinguished, yet it is the man holding the sword beside the couch who is the hero.”(1)
‘The 'King of Wei' whom he saw was an outstanding-looking man but he lacked the bearing of a hero. Tsao Tsao who was standing guard was the true hero. Even though he was dressed as a guard with a sword, he could not hide the true appearance of a hero. Even so, to be able to see beyond the guard holding the sword and identify him as a hero required discernment. That is what is meant by the idiom ‘only discerning eyes recognize a hero’
To see Jesus, we must have the 'discerning eyes' of faith so that we can 'recognize Jesus with discernment.' Therefore when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation we must look beyond the external appearance of the priest and recognize the presence of Jesus, and in the voice of the priest hear Jesus’ loving voice. We must respond to Jesus calling us to change our hearts and reform our lives so that we can live new lives. When we go to confession we must learn to 'make an act of faith,' enter fully into the sacrament, listen attentively, and use our own senses to be aware of the presence of Jesus.
In the sacrament of reconciliation we not only 'believe in' Jesus' mercy, but we also are 'in contact with' and 'experience' the boundless love of Jesus.