Our Lord Confers upon the Apostles the Power to Forgive Sins.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Our Lord Confers upon the Apostles the Power to Forgive Sins.
In the tranquil, hallowed eventide, at an hour similar to that wherein, after the Last Passover had been eaten, our Lord instituted the adorable Sacrament of the Altar, the apostles are again assembled around their risen Master. In this solemn moment He confers on them a new power, one which no mortal man has hitherto possessed, the power to forgive sins. Contemplate in detail the several points of this important action.
1st. “Our Lord breathed on the disciples.” (St. John xx. 22.) How significant is this act. “By the word of God” (we quote St. Cyril’s words) “man was created and God breathed into him the breath of life; He imparted to him His spirit. Again, subsequently to the fall, the Word of God raises man, and calls him from the death of sin to enter upon a new life. And in order that we may know that it is the self-same divine Person who created man in the beginning and sealed him with His spirit, now, at the commencement of our new, our renewed existence, He again imparts His spirit to the disciples by breathing on them. Thus by the same means whereby we were in the beginning called into being, we are also recreated and born anew.” Endeavor to fathom the depth of this weighty saying of the saint, and consider that in very truth man is created anew by virtue of the power bestowed on the apostles on this day, that a new spirit is breathed into him, that a new life animates him.
2d. Consider how great is the divine charity in granting to men this power to remit sins. “Was it not,” St. Thomas of Villanova exclaims, “was it not in itself an immense boon that our souls salvation should be placed in Christ’s hands? Where could we have found either in Heaven or on earth a more gracious, a more merciful Judge than Christ, who for our sakes came down from Heaven, who was condemned and crucified that we might escape eternal damnation? Yet this was not enough to satisfy our divine Lord; He was pleased to commit this vast judicial power to His apostles, to priests, to mortal men, that is, who have sinful passions like all the rest. How do we expect that a Priest, himself conscious of sin, will conduct himself towards his fellow sinner? Will he not treat him with the same leniency and kindness which he would fain have shown to himself? O wondrous compassion, inexpressible charity, that bids the sin-laden sinner go for relief to a fellow sinner, to one, however, who possesses authority to absolve him, who has the power to draw him back from the mouth of hell and set his feet in the way of Heaven!”
My soul, during Lent you many a time dwelt in thought on the ocean-depths of our Lord’s charity, which was strikingly displayed in His Passion; but does not the charity He exhibited after His resurrection appear to be even greater, more ingenious, when you meditate upon this gift His grace bestowed on man?
3d. Consider that our Lord gave to His apostles the power to remit sins, without subjecting the sinner to any further penalty. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.” (St. John xx. 23.) Such are the express words of our risen Lord. How merciful is this new code! “If a man accuses himself” we quote the words of St. Chrysostom “before an earthly tribunal, and gives himself up to justice, confessing himself to be guilty of theft or murder, he does not undergo the extreme rigor of the law; he escapes the gallows, or whatever punishment is due to his crime, but he is subjected to lesser penalty, a mitigated sentence is passed on him. How different is God’s manner of dealing with transgressors, how far His mercy surpasses human comprehension! For when a man accuses himself, albeit in the most secret tribunal, the tribunal of penance; even if he accuses himself of the most heinous, abominable sins, not only will his misdeeds be forgiven him, but the punishment he has richly deserved, the penalty of eternal torment, will be remitted. Earthly justice is deterrent and vindictive; its aim is to punish the evil-doer, the tribunal of confession seeks to make him better; the former puts the criminal to death, the latter rescues him from death and gives him new life.” Are you inclined to say that it is a burden to have to go to confession? Confession is a burden, a wondrous burden replete with divine charity and grace. Give thanks to God to-day for the supernatural powers committed to the apostles, and ask yourself how you have hitherto profited by or yourself exercised the mysterious power to forgive sins.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost
Virtue to practice: Patience
Vexilla Regis prodeunt
The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where Life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled, Water flowed, and Blood.
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
‘Amidst the nations, God,’ saith he,
‘Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.’
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy Limbs should find their rest.
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung:
The price of humankind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
O Cross, our one reliance, hail,
Thou glory of the saved, avail*
To give fresh merit to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.
Vexilla Regis pródeunt,
Fulget Crucis mystérium,
Qua vita mortem pértulit,
Et morte vitam prótulit.
Quæ vulneráta lánceæ
Mucróne diro, críminum
Ut nos laváret sórdibus,
Manávit unda et sánguine.
Impléta sunt quæ cóncinit
David fidéli cármine,
Regnávit a ligno Deus.
Arbor decóra et fúlgida,
Ornáta regis púrpura,
Elécta digno stípite
Tam sancta membra tángere.
Beáta, cuius bráchiis
Prétium pepéndit sæculi,
Statéra facta córporis,
Tulítque prædam tártari.
O Crux, ave, spes única,
Gentis redémptæ glória!*
Piis adáuge grátiam,
Reísque dele crímina.
Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,
Colláudet omnis spíritus:
Quibus Cricis victóriam
Largíris, adde præmium. Amen.
(ex. Breviario Romano)
*Instead of: ‘Thou Glory of the saved,’ during Passiontide, say: ‘This Holy Passiontide‘, during the Paschal Season: ‘Thou joy of Eastertide‘, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: ‘On this triumphant day.‘
An indulgence of 5 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this hymn throughout an entire month (S.C. Ind., Jan. 16, 1886; S.P.Ap., April 29, 1934).
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