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AHC A You Are My Lord and My God Sunday After Easter 2 A - Hebrew Catholics

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New Zealand Branch

You Are My Lord and My God

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

2nd Sunday of Easter      Year A

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

St. John 20: 19 — 31

 

Introduction

As we listen to this passage of St. John’s Gospel presented, we are privileged to be rendered spiritually present at one of the most significant moments in our Lord’s ministry. It is worthy of our closest attention, and provides very rich material upon which to meditate — that is, to feed spiritually.

We will reflect on the account and divide it into two parts:

Part 1.   Verses 19 to 23   Exchange of Peace Greetings
Part 2.   Verses 24 to 31           St. Thomas’s Declaration.

Click here for a printable copy of our text

 

Reflections on Our Text

 

Part 1.     Verses 19 23  

Exchange of Peace Greetings

Verse 19

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.”

The opening words indicate that it is still Easter Day when our Lord chose to visit His close disciples.

By the time St. John wrote his account of the Gospel, near the end of the first Century, Sunday was beginning to be celebrated more formally as the special time for Christians to gather, like this occasion, after work.

At this late afternoon gathering, the disciples locked the doors. Rumours had spread that the body of Jesus had been stolen from the tomb by some of His followers. The disciples were therefore on “high alert”, as the text says, “for fear of the Jews”.

In this Gospel, St. John refers to “the Jews” almost always as meaning the corrupt and antagonistic authorities; not to the Jewish people, to whom the first Christians saw themselves belonging.

Our Lord entered the locked room and stood among the disciples. He did not just suddenly appear. He majestically passed through the locked door and joined their company.
 

We might have expected Him to say, “What a great lot you all turned out to be! Where were you when I needed you most?” Instead He greets them in exactly the way He always had. In Hebrew (with slight variation if in a dialect such as Aramaic): “Shalom aleichem”, literally, “Peace to you,” that is, “Peace be upon you!” In very strict protocol, the disciples would all have replied, “Aleichem shalom,” literally, “To you, peace,” that is “Peace be upon you also,” confirming that they had accepted His gesture conferring Peace. (Some readers will have observed that this Peace Greeting has been retained in the Church’s celebration of the Eucharist in an unbroken tradition.)

Our Lord’s quiet and gentle, traditional everyday greeting becomes for them a kind of absolution. When Jesus Messiah speaks peace, there is peace in the whole group and peace all around them, filling the whole room. That is the Jewish understanding, and we encourage our fellow Christians to exchange our Lord’s peace blessing whenever appropriate.

Verses 20 and 21

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.”

Before going any further, our Lord shows His closest friends the wounds from His Crucifixion; and having seen the wounds, they are overjoyed. As St. Augustine taught, Jesus repeats His customary gift of peace, which is what the greeting implies, to reassure them. There is therefore an unmistakable emphasis on acknowledging the importance of peace, harmony, and unity; and that these are His to give to each one present, and for them likewise, to pass on.

Our Lord then makes a forthright statement:

•    “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

It is a very wonderful commission, and they knew exactly what He meant, for He had already instructed them carefully during earlier preparation.

•    “I do not teach on my own authority. Quite the contrary; the Father,
whose ambassador I am, has laid on me a commandment as to what I am
to say and what I am to teach. And I know that His commandment
means eternal life. Therefore, whatever I teach, I teach exactly as the
Father has instructed me.”                              John 12: 49 and 50 (Kleist and Lilly)

The Apostles had heard Jesus, in prayer, only a few nights earlier, to say within their hearing:

•    “As you have made me your ambassador to the world, so I am making
them my ambassadors to the world.”                           John 17: 18 (Kleist and Lilly)

Thus Jesus declares His intention to send them forth to proclaim His teaching — which He had received from the Father, and passed on to them.

At this point let’s pause and reflect on these extremely beautiful and important quotations spoken by the Lord Himself. As St. John taught in chapter 1 of his Gospel, Jesus Messiah is the Anointed One. He is the Word of God. He is the Teaching of God. This is what is called in the Old Testament, the Torah: Words of God, Teaching of Godthe Commandments. Sometimes we use the term Law of God, but that must be understood in Hebrew culture — not in a modern Western sense. Jesus Christ is our Torah, the Way, the Truth, and the Life! He is the very Word of Adonai, the Lord God: and the time was approaching for His followers to see and proclaim this great truth.

Jesus is the Message. He is God’s instruction to mankind. Here He is commissioning His specially selected disciples to be His Apostles, and to go forth into the world to pass on this  Message to all who would listen, and accept it — accept Him.

Verses 22 and 23

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.”

As the disciples were to carry out the teaching and work of the Master; so too they were to be channels of His life-giving breath. He therefore breathed on them. This symbolic action fulfilled, for those present, our Lord’s promise of the Paraclete. The word for “breathed” is the same as used in Genesis 2: 7 at the Creation, and Ezekiel 37: 9, in the Greek version of the Old Testament. (This, until the 4th century, was the version the early Church used as its base text rather than the Hebrew). So the connection between God’s breathing life into the first man, life into dry bones, and new life into the disciples, is clearly evident. The Apostles are, in turn, to breath the words of peace, forgiveness and new life into mankind. Only slowly, one step at a time, is this great truth dawning on these beloved friends of Jesus.

With the gift of the Spirit, Jesus directs how His gifts and authority are to be used: in the active demonstration of God’s mercy and lovingkindness! This can only be done through the agency of the Holy Spirit within, making the Apostles Jesus’ ambassadors. To those who respond, forgiveness is assured. But to those who refuse, their sins remain unforgiven, and their lives distorted, confused and lacking direction.

A Good Question at this point

How are we to compare this account of the Holy Spirit being given to the Apostles and the great outpouring at Pentecost?

Some people talk as though the Holy Spirit didn’t appear until Pentecost. They ignore the presence of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters at Creation, preparing the earth and the waters for the production of life. They also miss the many signs of the work of the Spirit throughout the Old Testament.

Confusion can arise if we try to harmonise the breathing of the Holy Spirit by Our Lord on to His Apostles, and the gift at Pentecost. Each occurrence has its own special function. The gift of the Spirit on the day of the Resurrection is more in the nature of a gift to a specific group, with specific authority, and a specific mission.
 
On this occasion, in John 20: 22 and 23, our Lord does not give the indwelling of the Holy Spirit promised in His final discourses after the Last Supper. That is reserved for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, or “Shavuot,” the Feast of Weeks, as it is also called. Here it is the gift of a special spiritual power to promise absolution for sin and confer the blessed gifts of the spiritual life, in fact, the New Life of Jesus Christ. This authority was alluded to at the time of St. Peter’s declaration at Caesarea to Jesus — “You are the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God” It is now renewed and formally conferred upon all the Apostles. It is the institution of the Sacrament of Penance — of Reconciliation: the authority to pronounce a person fully restored to the Household of God, to fullness of life in peace and harmony with God and mankind.                                                               (Based on Ronald Cox: The Gospel Story)

For full text of the Shema see next pages.

 

   Part 2.     Verses 24 — 31    

St. Thomas’s Declaration

Verses 24 and 25

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them
when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his
hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand
into his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas, who had been absent from the Sunday evening meeting, was briefed by the others as to what happened. Understandably, Thomas outlines the condition on which he would believe the testimony of his fellow disciples. After all, they had the chance first to see Jesus’ wounds (v 20). He simply wanted the same opportunity. Thomas is very emphatic: “I will not believe it unless I myself see the proof!”

Verses 26 — 28

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas
was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my
hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do
not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 

A week later Thomas is present when the disciples gather. Again Jesus appears and this time speaks to Thomas. First He uses Thomas’ own words, his emphatic condition upon which he would believe. But our Lord then immediately calls Thomas to a higher level of response: (literally) “Do not be unbelieving but believing”. In other words, “Thomas, put aside the world’s conditions for believing and allow all I have taught you to come alive and take over your mind and heart. Then you will be able to believe at the heights to which I am inviting you”.

This Thomas does instantly, and he accords Jesus with the most sublime acclamation ever made to Him from human lips:

literally — “You are Adonai (LORD). You are my God,”

Three times daily, this devout Jew recited the most central prayer of Judaism from the Torah — the five Books of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 6: 4.

The Shema
(Opening line)

“Shema Yishrael. Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad.”

“Hear O Israel: Adonai (the LORD) is our God, the LORD alone.”

 St. Thomas was, in fact. echoing the opening verse of Psalm 63 —

“O God, you are my God.”

In this way St. Thomas gives witness to Jesus as Lord and God.

We need to remember that “Adonai,” translated as, “Lord,” was a respectful substitute for the most holy name of God: “Yahweh,” which was not used by the faithful but whispered once a year by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies.

This is the climax of the Holy Gospel according to St. John. The Holy Spirit is actively present and at work among the Apostles.

Verses 29 — 31

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have
seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples
that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus
is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you
may have life in his name.

Thomas’ acclamation is warmly received by Jesus. The acclamation of disciples who have not seen Jesus will move Heaven even more so. The Spirit continues to be at work in the Church today seeking to empower similar acts of faith and love in those who will place themselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. So with an open heart let us ask for and be open to receiving the Holy Spirit. Let that be our special prayer for the next fifty days, until the Feast of Pentecost.

 

Conclusion

A Final Beatitude from Jesus for us:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

(These are the closing words of the original Gospel according to St. John. The remainder of the Gospel was added by the writer some time later.)

Aided by the Spirit of Truth, St. Thomas was able to respond to Jesus’ words: Stop doubting and believe.

His response has remained one of the most common prayers on the lips of Christ’s disciples ever since. The Fellowship presenting these Reflections encourages its members to recite the opening line of the Shema at least three times daily: every morning, afternoon / evening, and night-time. The Lord Jesus affirmed this prayer for His followers (St. Mark 12: 29 — 31). It is the most emphatic declaration of our belief in the First Commandment. (See next page.)

And so the meaning is clear to those who wish to be his disciples: through the Holy Spirit we too can proclaim Jesus to be Lord and God. This is what will be needed, if we are to resist all inclinations to follow after competing attractions, and remain loyal to our Blessed Messiah and everything He taught and continues to teach through His Body, the Church.

Let us go forth and proclaim it with power, that those who believe may also share in the Life of the risen Christ.

The Shema

Deuteronomy 6: 4 — 9

Shema Yishrael. Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
 
‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!’

Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your strength.

St. Mark 12: 29 — 31

Jesus said,

The first Commandment is:
‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all
your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

 
The second is this:
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’       (Leviticus 19: 18)

There is no other commandment greater than these.

 

For full text of the Shema — See next page.

 

 The Shema

Deuteronomy 6: 4 — 9

4     “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
5     Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with
       all your
soul, and with all your strength.
6     Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
7     Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether
       you are
busy or at rest.
8     Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your
       forehead.

9     Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11: 13 — 21

13    If, then, you truly heed my commandments which I enjoin on you today,
        loving and
serving the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul,
14    I will give the seasonal rain to your land, the early rain and the late rain,
        that you may
have your grain, wine and oil to gather in;
15    and I will bring forth grass in your fields for your animals. Thus you may
        eat your fill.

16    But be careful lest your heart be so lured away that you serve other gods
        and worship
them.
17    For then the wrath of the LORD will flare up against you and he will close
        up the
heavens, so that no rain will fall, and the soil will not yield its crops,
        and you will soon
perish from the good land he is giving you.
18    “Therefore, take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them
        at your wrist
as a sign, and let them be a pendant on your forehead.
19    Teach them to your children, speaking of them at home and abroad,
        whether you are
busy or at rest.
20    And write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates,
21    so that, as long as the heavens are above the earth, you and your children
        may live on i
n the land which the LORD swore to your fathers he would
        give them.

Numbers 15: 37 — 41

37    The LORD said to Moses,
38    “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that they and their descendants
        must put tassels
on the corners of their garments, fastening each
        corner tassel with a violet cord.

39    When you use these tassels, let the sight of them remind you to keep
        all the
commandments of the LORD, without going wantonly astray
        after the desires of your
hearts and eyes.
40    Thus you will remember to keep all my commandments and be holy
        to your God.

41    I, the LORD, am your God who, as God, brought you out of Egypt that I,
        the LORD,
may be your God”.

 
New American Bible

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition (c)
2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and
are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the
New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing
from the copyright owner.

 

A Tribute

St. Thomas travelled to India in the first Century and there established
the Christian Church which through many trials and persecutions has
courageously continued to give witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
We greet our fellow Christian brothers and sisters in India and encourage
you to emulate your Patron Saint in your personal faith and Christian living.

 

Lord Jesus:

You are Adonai! You are my Lord and my God.

Blessed be His Name, whose glorious Kingdom is forever and ever!

Amen.

 

Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Easter 2nd Sunday ― Year A

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

 

Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

(Mark 16: 15)

Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so, remain
close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating how you can note the
gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going reflection.

My Lord and My God

Easter Day     Year A                        St. John 20: 19 — 31

1.    St. Paul, inspired by our Lord’s teaching and actions wrote to the Christian
       community at Corinth (1 Cor. 12: 28):     

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some
people
God has designated in the Church to be, first, apostles;
second, prophets,
third, teachers; then mighty deeds; then
gifts of healing, assistance,
administration, and varieties of
tongues (languages).”    

       The Church has constantly, over 2,000 years, upheld ordination to the
       Apostolic Office as the first and highest order concerned with ruling the
       Church in all aspects. Our Lord did not leave us to wander in the wilderness,
       but put in place the proper support His people would need, until He returns
       at the end of time. He had taught His Apostles (and thus all whom they
       appointed):

“….. whoever wishes to be first among you will be the
  slave of all.”   
                               (See St. Mark 10: 42 — 45)      

       St. Paul encouraged Christ’s followers to be loyal and obedient to those in
       authority in the Church, and thus to serve one another, as our beloved
       Messiah so ardently taught. He himself practised what he preached.

2.    When our Lord appeared to the Apostles gathered together after His
       Resurrection, He greeted them according to protocol, with the traditional,
       “Peace by with you”. But He also, in an unusual move, repeated the same
       greeting a few minutes later. This was no mere courtesy. He was well aware
       how disappointed they all were at their failure to give Him the support and
       comfort He needed after His arrest and trial on trumped up charges. So our
       Lord lovingly repeats His peace-conveying salutation. He means just what
       He says. Here is the One through whom everything was created now
       commanding:

“Be entirely at peace!”

       This is a beautiful moment of restoration. He breathes New Life, His Life, 
       into them
and they are fully revived.        

       We too, suffer the greatest anxiety in failing the Lord, but His breath of
       New Life is there for us to take in at every moment. Indeed, He lets us see
       our shortcomings to remind us to come back to Him and be restored. 

3.    We are surrounded by people who look upon us as naïve and feeble minded
       because we believe the various accounts in the Scriptures — most especially,
       our Lord’s Resurrection. They claim they would believe if there were evidence!
       Christ’s persecutors said the same! Little has changed. But we are invited to
       remember Yeshua’s own blessing to be imparted to all His followers:  

“Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.”  
_______________

Let us pray for one another as we all try to live up to the call of our Lord and His Teaching, and attempt to pass it on. Let’s keep the Word of God in our mind and in our heart, using whatever means we can. Let’s keep our focus on Jesus and give no attention to all that would undermine our faith in Him. And let us say regularly throughout each day, “You are my Lord and my God”. 

 

 Blessed be the most Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Shalom!

 Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections.

 

 John 20: 19 — 31

2nd Sunday of Easter     Year A

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

19     11 12  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.”

20    When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 13  The
        disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21    14  (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has
        sent me, so I send you.”

22    15  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
        “Receive the holy Spirit.

23    16  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you
        retain are retained.”

24    Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when
        Jesus came.

25    So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said
        to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my
        finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not
        believe.”

26    Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with
        them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their
        midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

27    Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and
        bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving,
        but believe.”

28    17  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29    18  Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have
        seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

30    19  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples
        that are not written in this book.

31    But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the
        Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have
        life in his name.

 

11 [19-29] The appearances to the disciples, without or with Thomas (cf John 11:16; 14:5), have rough parallels in the other gospels only for John 20:19-23; cf Luke 24:36-39; Mark 16:14-18.

12 [19] The disciples: by implication from John 20:24 this means ten of the Twelve, presumably in Jerusalem. Peace be with you: although this could be an ordinary greeting, John intends here to echo John 14:27. The theme of rejoicing in John 20:20 echoes John 16:22.

13 [20] Hands and . . . side: Luke 24:39-40 mentions “hands and feet,” based on Psalm 22:17.

14 [21] By means of this sending, the Eleven were made apostles, that is, “those sent” (cf John 17:18), though John does not use the noun in reference to them (see the note on John 13:16). A solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven in Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15.

15 [22] This action recalls Genesis 2:7, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus. Cf also the revivification of the dry bones in Ezekial 37. This is the author’s version of Pentecost. Cf also the note on John 19:30.

16 [23] The Council of Trent defined that this power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance. See Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18.

17 [28] My Lord and my God: this forms a literary inclusion with the first verse of the gospel: “and the Word was God.”

18 [29] This verse is a beatitude on future generations; faith, not sight, matters.

19 [30-31] These verses are clearly a conclusion to the gospel and express its purpose. While many manuscripts read come to believe, possibly implying a missionary purpose for John’s gospel, a small number of quite early ones read “continue to believe,” suggesting that the audience consists of Christians whose faith is to be deepened by the book; cf John 19:35.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,
revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian
Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright
owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be
reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the
copyright owner.

 

 Appendix – Special Note on John 20: 22 — 23

 

In recognition of the faith of our Protestant brothers and sisters who read these Reflections, we acknowledge and respect the difference between the various interpretations of these very special verses from St John. We have gathered a few quotations from Catholic scholarship to clarify the teaching of the Catholic Church to assist our readers understand the position taken by their Catholic friends.

In our Hebrew Catholic understanding of this teaching of Jesus Messiah, the Church, from its infancy looked upon the power to pronounce absolution for sin as exercised under the authority of persons appointed to administer this ministry ― as had been the case historically in Judaism.

 

1.    W. Leonard (St John. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture 1953)

By the symbolic gesture of breathing upon them he signified that he was communicating the Holy Spirit — a partial anticipation of the gift of Pentecost. The words  ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost’ made the mean¬ing quite clear. The power of remitting and retaining sins, clearly supposes judicial authority exercised over sins in a tribunal. Accordingly the Church has per¬petually understood this act of the Saviour as the institution of the sacrament of Penance (Trent, Sess. 4). Thus the sacrament of pardon was instituted under a double sign of the Saviour’s peace, on the most joyful day of the world’s history. It should be noted that in the intention of Christ who gave this power to the members of an apostolic college,  Thomas, who was absent, also received it.

 

2.    W.L. Newton (St John. A Commentary on the New Testament 1942)

The power to forgive sins was conferred in a special way, ― for it was one of the principal features of their mission. The Council of Trent (Sess. cap. 5 ― 6; Denzinger, 899 ― 902) has defined that this verse proves a ministerial power to forgive sins. St. Luke 24: 49, where the Apostles are told to await the power from on high; yet on this occasion the Holy Spirit was actually given them. The term receive implies “here and now.” The spirit is the principle of their new life, but here He confers a special power.

“He breathed on them.” Compare Genesis 2: 7; Wisdom 15: 11; Ezekiel 37:  9; external sign of this power. Its nature, the forgiving or retaining of sins, is made very clear. Here that power is definitively conferred. The forgiveness is to be effected through an act of their judgment, not merely through the faith of the penitent.

 

3.    Bruce Vawter, C.M. (Jerome Biblical Commentary St. John 1968)

23. The giving of the Spirit is here specifically related to the power given to the Church to continue the judicial character of Christ (3: 19; 5: 27; 9: 39) in the matter of sin
(St. Matthew 9: 8; 16: 19; 18: 18; St. Luke 24: 47). Catholic tradition (DB 920; DS 1710) has rightly seen in this act the origin of the Sacrament of Penance, even though it is equally true that the Church’s power over sin is also exercised in baptism and the preaching of the redemptive word.         

 

 

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