The Gospel of John 20:19-23
As the Father sent me, so am I sending you: receive the Holy Spirit.
In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again:
‘Peace be with you.
As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
The disciples are sent on mission. Jesus gives them the mission in two parts after they receive the Holy Spirit from him.
Firstly, they are to “forgive sin” and secondly, they are instructed, “whoever you hold, are held”, meaning to hold firm to one another in community.
Mary Poyntz with the assistance of Winefrid Wigmore, two of Mary Ward’s closest companions, writes in the manuscript of the English Vita of Mary Ward’s ‘inexpressible Love of her Enemies’, and that ‘when she had received an injury, it was her special care first to frame in herself an entire pardon, grounded and hearty, not formal and verbal, then to pray for them and seek out occasions to render them service, and this with efficacy, but not without Prudence knowing and avoiding the effect of their ill will and malice, as also to discern what in them was good and what bad.’
In this description of Mary’s actions, I am struck by her sincerity, prayerful discernment and discretion. Also, the description of the virtue of ‘prudence’ or ability to govern and discipline herself by the use of her reasoning. Her friends Mary and Winefrid make a point of Mary’s way of ‘love of enemies’ as seeming ‘quite beyond the sense of flesh and blood.’ This points to their ‘felt knowledge’ that Mary was at one with the Holy Spirit in her actions.
Jesus gives us all the Holy Spirit. I am invited to be God’s mission. We all are invited.
Can I breathe in the Holy Spirit?
Can I breathe in goodness, creation and love and breathe out to renew my relationships?
I imagine how this helps to hold us firm to one another in community.
I spend some time imagining what this community might look like today.
 Mary Coloe, Johannine scholar explains that the phrase “for those whose sins you retain” is an inaccurate translation.
 Mary Ward (1585-1645): A Briefe Relation with Autobiographical Fragments and a Selection of Letters, ed. Christina Kenworthy-Browne. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008, 83.