Friends, our magnificent Gospel today declares that there is no greater manifestation of the divine mercy than the forgiveness of sins. We are in the upper room with the disciples, those who had denied, betrayed, and abandoned their master. Jesus came and stood in their midst. When they saw him, their fear must have intensified; undoubtedly, he was back for revenge.
Instead, he spoke the simple word “Shalom,” peace. He showed them his hands and his side, lest they forget what the world (and they) did to him, but he does not follow up with blame or retribution—only a word of mercy.
And then the extraordinary commission: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus’ mercy is communicated to his disciples, who in turn are sent to communicate it to the world.
This is the foundation for the sacrament of Penance, which has existed in the Church from that moment to the present day as the privileged vehicle of the divine mercy.