Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish & School

Traveling the Road to Unity

Adapted from the Pentecost Homily of Deacon Allen Love


   In John’s Gospel on Pentecost we hear the familiar passage of Jesus’ encounter with the disciples who are behind locked doors in fear.  They are hiding from those who have crucified Jesus fearing that the same fate may be theirs.  And I suspect a new fear came over them when Jesus stood in their midst.  They knew they had failed him, knew they had abandoned him in his hour of need. But to their surprise, Jesus does not condemn or chastise them, rather he says to them,     “Peace be with you” – twice!

   His first greeting is his expression of love and forgiveness. He knows they need forgiveness to move beyond the locked doors of fear. They need forgiveness to move forward.  The past cannot be changed, but just as he has been freed from death, the Risen Christ offers them freedom, the freedom from being locked in the past of their failures.

   Following his second greeting of peace, John tells us “he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven the, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  John tells us this is the evening of the first day of the week echoing back to Genesis when God created light on the first day in the first creation story and to God’s breathing life into the human formed of clay in the second creation story. This is a new creation, something new is taking place.  This peace is the power of mission.  The mission of Jesus is becoming theirs (& ours).  The divine life breathed into them is not to be held onto – it must be given away.  Their mission, and ours, it to manifest God’s love in the world. The key to this mission is the power of the Holy Spirit.

   In John, Jesus’ mission is about unity.  Jesus speaks numerous times of his unity with the Father and our unity with him.  In the passage on the Good Shepherd, Jesus says “They will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (10:16).  Later in his farewell discourse, Jesus says,  "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.  And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (17:20-23)

   The road to unity is through forgiveness – the power to bind and loose.  This is not the action of a judge – guilty or not guilty.  This is the action of mercy, the mercy that opens to the possibilities of the future rather than remaining behind the locked doors of the past.

   A few weeks ago I listened to an interview of Dr. Cheryl Steed, a Clinical Psychologist who runs a program caring for aging prisoners suffering from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia in a men’s prison in California.  The caregivers are also prisoners and they are known as “Gold Coats” because of the yellow jackets they wear.  Every day the Gold Coats care for the needs of those suffering with memory loss.  They help them brush their teeth, shower, shave and get dressed.  They escort them to meals and if there is an incontinence problem they help clean them up.  When asked why those serving as Gold Coats were in prison, Dr. Steed said, “All the ones I work with are incarcerated for murder.”  When asked why they do it, Dr. Steed said that the men will tell you that ‘they want to give back for what they did.’  As I listened to the interview it was clear that Dr. Steed and the prison officials had opened a door.  Of course the inmate caregivers will have to serve their sentences, but they do not have to remain behind the locked doors of their past actions.  Their service to the older inmates is resulting in new relationships and unity they never expected.

   We are all sinners; we have all had our failures.  Like the first disciples we have our moments we are not particularly proud of.  We have hurt others and been hurt by others. Our sins and failures are what separates us from God and others.  There are those we sometimes try to hold and define by their past actions – ex-offenders, addicts, or even friend or family members who have hurt us.  If we hold on to (retain) these sins and failures the separation will continue.  If we let go of these failures (forgive) unity will develop.  We can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is the power of the Pentecost, the freedom to overcome separation and bring unity.

   We too are the recipients of that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit given to the first disciples.  We have been given the power to forgive, to set others free from their failures of the past and open the locked doors to the possibilities of the future – a future of unity wrapped in the divine life of God.


In His Love,

Fr. Rosy 

Rev. Robert Rosebrough, Pastor





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