We can imagine what the eleven remaining Apostles must have been thinking on the first Easter Sunday as they heard about the empty tomb, the angels, and the appearances of Jesus Himself. Mark indicates that they found it difficult to believe that He has risen. And they must have asked themselves what He would say to them in any case. After all, they had fled when Jesus was arrested; and only St. John went back to the foot of the Cross.
Their boasting about their loyalty and their petty quarrels regarding who was greatest now seemed quite ridiculous. They must have asked: would He receive them back, or would He instead select more worthy disciples to carry out His mission? What joy there must have been when they heard Jesus say, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me so I send you.” He then gave them the power of the Holy Spirit and told them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” John 20:23. He offered them the peace of knowing that their sins and failures were forgiven; and He
confirmed again their ability to give His grace to others. They still had many shortcomings, but He would make them worthy of their great commission. And, knowing their own need for forgiveness and strength, they were all more able and willing to confer that forgiveness and grace upon others. They would not ignore the sins of humanity; Jesus never did so. But they would see in all people potential sons and daughters of God; and they would offer His saving power.
The Apostles are thus excellent examples for us. When it is difficult to forgive others, we should recall one’s own need for forgiveness. When it is difficult to see the image of God in others, we think about how God sees each of us as His sons and daughters despite our sins. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness and grace. Nor should we ignore the damage sin causes in the world and in people’s lives. Rather, by seeing His image in other people, and by trying to free them from sin and guilt, we enter more deeply into the realms of grace in which our own sins are forgiven.
For, as Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matt. 5:7.