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." (Jn 20:19-23)
The Lord Jesus came to his brothers and breathed on them, giving them the Holy Spirit, and with the Spirit, the power to "forgive sins..."
Here is where Catholicism receives her precious Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus gave the power to the apostles, who themselves were ordained the first priests of the Church. And every priest, subsequently after them, has received these same gifts.
This Gospel is very fitting for today's Feast day. We celebrate the Mercy of God. We celebrate the fact that God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it...and redeem it, and to redeem, and redeem, and redeem, until the end of time...
I once visited a cathedral in the Midwest. It was very old, and beautiful. As I walked around, I entered the traditional confessional stalls. A chill went through me. I thought to myself, "In this place, many a soul was washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb through the words of absolution...many a soul came to his salvation here on this spot..."
Jesus died on the cross to give us hope for salvation. He did not remove man's own free will. Because of our own free will, we fall into sin time and time again. This is why Jesus gave the apostles (and subsequently our priests) the power to "forgive men's sins." It is not them doing the actual forgiving, but it is through their hands, ordained by the Holy Spirit, that souls receive the absolution of their sins from Jesus Christ.
I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It offers me a time to be humble, a time to be ashamed of my own wretchedness, a time to admit to my own faults without blaming others...
In the confessional, Jesus speaks to me through the priests. I feel so clean and new everytime I walk out. Once, in the convent, after a very lengthy confession with my chaplain, I walked out of the confessional and came eye to Eye with Jesus, Exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. I "heard" His words..."I have won...I have won and conquered your soul...You belong to Me..." So it is after a good confession, that although we Christians are in the midst of a battle against the principalities of darkness until our last breath, when we fall in that battle, we don't stay down...we rise again in the Sacrament of Reconciliation...and the Lord conquers...the Lord wins!
Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, the urgent calling by Jesus Christ to mankind to come to Him...for it is not too late to turn away from your sins, and return to Him who is waiting for you...
Trust in Him, for there is no sin greater than His Mercy...