Jn 20: 19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, 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.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Breathing the new life of grace

“He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” St. John tells us that this experience of Pentecost occurred on Easter night in this scene in the Upper Room. He saw that it continued the event that began on Good Friday when Jesus “gave up his spirit,” falling into death but thereby releasing his Holy Spirit into the world. Here now on Easter, on “the first day of the week” –  which calls to mind the first day of Creation – Jesus communicated his Spirit, breathing the new life of grace into his disciples. In so doing, he ushered in the new Creation, just as God had first breathed life into Adam at the dawn of human life on earth (Gen. 2). Now the followers of Jesus would play their part in sharing his Spirit, bringing redeeming life to the souls of a waiting humanity.

—Fr. Rick McGurn, SJ, is a retreat director at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. 


Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

—Text of “Come, Holy Ghost” attributed to Rabanus Maurus, translated by Edward Caswell