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Retaining Sins

I met with my prayer group tonight via Zoom. We read the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday which is Pentecost. It included the famous words from Jesus, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” We had a lively and spirit led discussion about those words. First of all, Jesus gives the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit – His Spirit. They were filled with all they needed to accomplish the mission God had for them. Being Catholic, we had heard these words before as the institution of the Sacrament of Confession. But what about retaining sins? From the conversations we have had with different priests, we discussed that when the priest is listening to Confessions and acting in persona Christi – as the person of Jesus Christ – he would not be able to purposefully “retain” someone’s sins as in not forgive them. When a person came to Jesus asking for forgiveness, it was always granted to them. So it would be for a person in the Confessional. On another level, the priest does have the ability to “retain” the sins he has heard sharing the burden with the person. He may offer additional penance for that person. And then on a personal level, if someone has deeply hurt me, I need the help of the Holy Spirit to forgive them. But, if I “retain” those sins and not forgive, I am easily filled with anger, frustration, and perhaps even the desire for revenge. I am hurting myself more and not living in God’s will. So, perhaps Jesus’ words are a warning to us as well. It was an animated and enlightening discussion. Everyone walked away thinking about things just a little differently than before.

I Found God today discussing the deeper meaning of His words.

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