June 19, 2018, 8:11 pm
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More fruits of the Holy Spirit

ON the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 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.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”


In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul listed nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness; and self-control. But this enumeration does not exhaust what we can receive from the Spirit. Our readings today offer more fruits. In the Gospel; Jesus appeared to his disciples, breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” I think it is significant that what he told them right after this was: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.” In 1 Corinthians we read, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” No one can forgive except by the Holy Spirit also. The times I was able to forgive, I knew that while forgiveness was a decision I made, I was also being helped and strengthened by God’s grace.

In the first reading, Jesus’ disciples, fired up by the Holy Spirit, began their ministry of preaching. The Spirit’s zeal to proclaim God’s mighty acts motivated the disciples to leave the room where they were safely gathered and face the Jews outside. But I think there was another force that moved them: the Spirit’s forgiveness.

In Peter’s address to the crowd gathered outside (Acts 2:14-36), he laid bare the truth that the apostles themselves had a hand in Jesus’ crucifixion. But if the people could not escape blame, Why then was Peter still reaching out to them and offering God’s salvation? This was forgiveness in action.

Before Peter and his fellow apostles became courageous preachers of God’s forgiveness, they had locked themselves in a room “for fear of the Jews.” The same fear had made Peter deny Jesus three times. The same fear had made all but one of the disciples abandon Jesus on the cross. Hiding in that room, they must have been drowning not only in fear but also in guilt Then Jesus came with forgiveness saying, “Peace be with you.”

This made the Eleven the perfect agents of forgiveness. If they were able to extend God’s forgiveness to the Jews, it was because Jesus’ chosen band were themselves forgiven. No one can forgive unless he or she experiences forgiveness first.

But before this, in that locked room, the Apostles must have accepted their need for forgiveness. This must be a fruit of the Spirit, too. This is the fruit we desperately need today. It is not enough that we forgive; we must also always be aware of our need to be forgiven.

A lady once came to me asking how she could forgive her husband who had confessed to having an extramarital affair. I gave her many suggestions, but none seemed to help her. A year later, she visited me again with great news: She had finally forgiven her husband. I asked her how she was able to do it. She told me that the healing began when she realized that though she may not have had an affair herself, she was not always faithful to her marriage vows. She had prioritized less important things. She needed forgiveness, too. Then she remembered all the times she was forgiven for her mistakes.

To be able to forgive, to come to grips with our need for forgiveness, and the realization that we have been forgiven many times are all fruits of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Spirit to continue showering us with these.


– Fr. Francis D. Alvarez, SJ
– (May 20, 2018)
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