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A sermon on John 20:19-23

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Fr. Mike Paraniuk

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro,
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield),
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union)

If forgiveness had a face, it would look like Bob. Bob and I went to St. Fidelis Seminary as 14-year-old teenagers studying for the priesthood. Our days were very regimented with long study and much prayer. But Saturdays were free time when we would organize all-day sport tournaments where the jocks would make fun of the nerds.  

Bob and I were both nerds. There was a jock who bullied Bob mercilessly. The bully left me alone because I could kick a soccer ball pretty far. Bob was not so fortunate. This guy, along with his jock friends, put down Bob every chance they got. They called him names. They stole the cookies his mom sent him. Since the cafeteria food was so bad, those care packages from home kept us alive. One day they even stuffed Bob in a garbage chute. I prayed to God for an end to this abuse. God heard my prayer.

Bob and I were playing soccer during one of these Saturday tournaments in a large field adjacent to a country road. All match play halted when we heard a loud crash. A car lost control, smashing head on into a telephone pole. 

I saw a man thrown out of the car, landing in a ditch on the roadside. We all ran to the crash site. The man lay there motionless, struggling to breath. Then, he stopped breathing. We stood there like helpless dummies not knowing what to do. Neither 911 nor cell phones were invented yet. 

There was this new procedure called CPR but none of us were trained to use it. None of us except for Bob. He read about CPR in a book. He immediately went to the injured man, turned his head sideways, and cleared out the blood and tongue obstructing his airway. Bob breathed into the man's mouth while doing chest compressions to keep his heart going. Me and some of the others took over the chest compressions. Bob showed us how to do it. Eventually, the injured man started breathing on his own. 

Bob, the clumsy nerd who couldn't catch a ball, saved that man's life. Bob knew this man. He was one of the bully's friends who made his life so miserable. 

I asked Bob if he was tempted to get revenge by doing nothing to help this guy. He replied, "I forgave him while giving my air to him. Now he has another chance to be kind." 

On that day, Bob showed me what forgiveness really is. He gave up all claims of punishment. Bob eventually left the seminary to get married. His kids will be blessed to have Bob as their father. 

Long before Bob used his breath to save a life, God used His breath to create life. In Genesis 2:7, we see how God used His breath to give life to Adam. “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” 

God's breathing is not how humans breathe. Humans breathe by pouring out air. God breathes by pouring out the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus shows us that there is a direct connection between giving the Holy Spirit and giving forgiveness. What's the connection? Every time you forgive, God re-creates you in His image. You become more like God every time you forgive. 

This is important because the day will come when God judges you. He will be judging you on how clearly He can see His image in you. If God looks at you and says, "I see Myself in you", then your judgement will be a happy one. Revelations 22:4 says, "They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads." 

Forgiveness is the pen with which you write the name of Jesus on your soul. 

Mother Theresa would often say, "We are all pencils in the hands of God. He does the writing." Allow God to use you to write His love letter of mercy." 

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