Today is Pentecost Sunday. On this day the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. And in one of today’s possible gospel readings (John 20:19–23), Jesus associates the coming of the Holy Spirit with our peace and with the forgiveness of our sins

Our Lord speaks of peace two times in this gospel: “Peace be with you.” Jesus says to the disciples: “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 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.’” 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “‘God is Love’ and love is his first gift, containing all others. ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’” (no. 733). God is love. Sin is the opposite of love. Sin harms the human person and frustrates the human yearning for peace. God does not abandon sinners, however. The Holy Spirit—the spirit of peace (Romans 8:6)—imparts love, mercy, and peace to repentant sinners. 

The reason why the Holy Spirit is the spirit of peace is because the Holy Spirit is the very love of God himself—the loving relation of the Father to the Son, and of the Son to the Father. There is no dissension within God. The Trinitarian Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—are not at odds with each other. They suffer no discord. They are essentially unified in love. God is supremely peaceful. 

Sadly, peace does not characterize the contemporary world. Many of us suffer from profound unease and deep-seated dissension—both internally and externally. Unrest characterizes the modern human person. This unfortunate phenomenon ultimately bespeaks the absence of real love. Those deprived of true love do not possess authentic peace. Why? Peace is only possible if there is proper and secure order among persons. And only those who love and are loved in an indissoluble way experience such ordered security. 

Love has a very specific meaning and character. Love is proper order and relation in the good. When there is no real good shared among persons, there is no true love. And when there is no true love, there is no authentic peace. Without love, we are alone—radically isolated. Totally devoid of peace.

If there is anyone reading these words suffering the profound absence of peace, they can take consolation in this truth: God does not leave us to wallow in our misery. Jesus Christ came to earth—he lived, he suffered, he died, he rose again, and he sent the Holy Spirit in order to give us the loving peace for which we all inherently yearn. 

Because Jesus came to earth, and because he sent the Holy Spirit, we can truly receive the forgiveness of our sins. True peace. God always restores us to the order of love through the sacrament of confession. In this sacrament, God truly grants us—in the Holy Spirit—“pardon and peace.”