“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: 21-23)

The first gift of the Holy Spirit received by the Apostles, well before the outpouring of His gifts on Pentecost, was the power to forgive. Forgiveness is the beginning of spiritual life. It’s the beginning of the end to self-isolation, from God and other people. It clears the way to other gifts, enabling growth.

The obstacles to forgiveness are very real, nonetheless. Not only, but especially, when I can see that the other person/people behaved badly. It’s so easy for me to see that, really. But I can ask for God’s grace to “see” differently, as He sees: He sees that we all struggle or behave badly, in one way or another. We’re all fellow-strugglers.

I need to ask for the gift of forgiveness, because God has it on offer, if I ask: “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11: 11-13)

(Picture from Day 3 in Moscow. Meeting of the Commission on Canon Law of the Interconciliar Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church. At Sretensky Monastery in the center of Moscow. It was a long meeting, at which difficult issues of Marriage and Divorce were discussed).

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