John 20:22-23

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

One basic question people often have about reconciliation is "Why bother?"  Why not just take your sins to God directly?  Who needs a middleman?  The answer is found in the cry of a little child who crawled into bed with her parents one night during a thunderstorm.  Didn't she know Jesus was there in the room with her, asked her mother?  "Yes," she said, "But I need somebody with skin on."  We need somebody with skin on, particularly when we are facing our own sins.  We need somebody who can listen and hold us accountable lest we delude ourselves.  We also need to hear — with our ears — that we are forgiven since the mind is a notorious echo chamber that fosters both presumption and despair.  And so Jesus, in today's verse, empowers His priests to forgive sins in His name. The Word became flesh and He still comes to us with skin on.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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