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Thursday, 22 May 2014

6th Sunday of Easter Year A 2014

6th. Sunday of Easter (A)

(Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1st. Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)

In our Gospel reading we heard Jesus make this promise to His disciples:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him.  But you know Him for He remains with you and will be in you. 

You know Him for He remains with you: under God’s Providence, though Jesus would apparently depart from His disciples, the Holy Spirit would come to abide with them, keeping them as one: one, in their shared memories of life with Jesus from its beginnings in Galilee to His Death, Resurrection, and final Ascension into heaven; one in their remembrance of His divine teaching, inspiring them with the ineffable hope of His heavenly promises, and climaxing in their increasing awareness and assurance of the mysterious actuality of His promise to be with them always

Moreover, that same Spirit of Truth, Jesus went on to say:

            Will be in you.

For -- with Jesus having ascended to heaven and asked it of the Father -- He will come to be with them as Pentecostal Endowment for the whole Body of Christ; and as Eucharistic Gift and Sustenance, to be in them individually as disciples to be formed in the likeness of Jesus by Him as living members of the One Body for the honour and glory of the Father. 

Because I live, you will live.

Indeed, He even went on to promise:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to My Father. 

People of God, let us learn from the Apostles just how important is the Gift of the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus promises, the Spirit we indeed, at this joyous season, are now awaiting and expecting:

When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent off Peter and John, who went down there and prayed for the converts, asking that they might receive the Holy Spirit.    (Acts 8:14-15)

Today we, as living members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are in the constant process of being formed by the Holy Spirit Who is living with us and in us.  And yet, every day we are being shown, with brutal clarity at times, that the society for which we are meant to be both sanctifying salt and guiding light is deeply alienated from God, to such an extent that we are inevitably forced to call into question the witness that we, as members of the Body of Christ and as channels for the Spirit of God, are giving to Jesus.  We look, therefore, with ever more humble expectation, for a renewed coming of the Spirit of Truth this Pentecost, that He, the Advocate and Helper as Jesus called Him, might indeed help and enable us to pursue more effectively the work for which we have been chosen, the work of proclaiming Jesus’ Gospel of Truth and Love with its joyous offer of eternal salvation, to the whole of mankind.
Today we are in a situation very much like that in which the first Christians found themselves in the pagan society of the Roman Empire and to whom Peter wrote in his first letter, as we heard:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.

‘Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts’, that is, guard against the poisonous atmosphere of much of today's popular thinking, proclamation, and practice, lest it corrode the strength and beauty of your relationship with Jesus; and, be ready, always ready, to give both an account and a defence of your faith to everyone who asks you.  

So often, in countless little ways, we Catholics and Christians can close ourselves to the Spirit of truth with the result that He is not able to work effectively either in us or through us:

The Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain in a human being for ever, because he is mortal flesh.” (Genesis 6:3)

We can so easily live as children of the flesh: yielding to vanity, refusing to accept unpleasant truths, speaking wild words from emotional upset, uttering calculated lies to avoid what we fear, using words as weapons for aggression rather than as channels of truth and mutual understanding; and in doing such things we shackle the work of the Spirit within us, indeed, perhaps we may even drive His presence from us.  We must never forget that our enemy is the spirit of deceit, and we should never allow him to deceive us into thinking that we can rightly express truth in a way that needlessly hurts, for the Spirit of Truth is also the Spirit of Love, and our calling in Jesus is to live and express the truth in love.

Here, however, a major question arises: what sort of love should we have for Jesus and proclaim as the truth about Him?

In last week’s Gospel reading Philip hurt our blessed Lord deeply when he asked:

            Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us!

To which Jesus answered:

Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know Me, Philip?  Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

There we have a most perfect illustration of the absolute importance of the Spirit’s work of ‘forming us in the likeness of Jesus’.  Philip had not been looking aright at Jesus:  he had been loving Him, yes; but in too human a way; in relation, that is, to himself, Philip!  He had not been regarding Jesus as Son of the Father enough.  It is indeed lovely and most helpful to recognize -- with many popular and indeed beautiful spiritual songs -- Jesus as our Friend.  But, that is most certainly not enough, for there is so much more to Jesus!!   Love for Jesus is not true, nor is it authentically Christian, if its content of human affection and commitment tries to transcend, pre-empt, Christian Faith in Jesus:

            Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

And perhaps the very best way to get things right in this respect is to ever remember and reverence, love and delight in, Jesus’ own most sublime and total love for His Father, the very root and source of and ultimate model for, His love for us.  The whole of His Passion and Death on the Cross of Calvary was motivated, sustained, and sublimated by His transcendent love for His Father:

The world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.  (John 14:31)

If we could admire, appreciate, and delight in that love aright then we would indeed be able to proclaim the truth about, and bear authentic witness to, Jesus before the whole world and thereby give unparalleled glory to God the Father.

We have to recognize that in today’s world and our modern society we do not address a ‘People of God’ prepared for over a thousand years to hear and understand the word of God.  As Jesus Himself told us, the Advocate Whom He asked the Father to send to us and abide always with us is unacceptable to the world because it can neither see nor does it know Him!  How then is the Gospel to be proclaimed?  

As disciples of Him of Whom the prophet Isaiah (42:2) foretold:

He will not cry out nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street;

we cannot always be condemning the world.  Nor, as disciples of the same Jesus of whom the prophet went on to say: 

A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench;

can we always be arguing with youngsters who are misguided or older sinners who have turned their backs on God. 

 Here we need to pay attention to Peter addressing us in the second reading:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts!  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. 

You will remember that Jesus had previously said (John 6:44):

No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draw him.

Peter would therefore seem to be advising us to allow ourselves to become instruments through whom the Father is able to draw His chosen ones to Jesus. We are not to try to take over the Father’s work by ourselves choosing, cajoling, and chivvying, exhorting and harassing, and always with an eye on Church numbers and popular reputation before Catholic sincerity and truth, or Christian service.  Our very first and most important activity must be to, ‘Sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts’, and if our love for and appreciation of Jesus is authentic and sincere, the Father will be able to use us to help and serve those He chooses to call and draw to Jesus in Mother Church. 

People of God, Jesus' promise to His disciples still holds for you and me in our world today.  We are called to continue His work, indeed, as He Himself said, to do even greater works for Him, in His Spirit.  For this, however, we need to prepare and pray for the coming anew of His Spirit into our hearts and lives by trusting ourselves ever more confidently to His abiding presence in Mother Church, and to the power of prayer when, as her children, we seek to respond and open ourselves up, to the One Who is ever knocking at the door of our hearts for deeper communion with us.  In that way may we be truly ready and prepared to:

Give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope;

the hope, that is, which is summed up in those few words of Jesus:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 

Let us, therefore, pray for God’s Gift of the Spirit to overshadow Mother Church anew this coming Pentecost, that the Father’s Name be hallowed -- as Jesus prayed -- in her public worship and proclamation of His Gospel Truth.   And let us aspire to welcome that Spirit of Truth and Love thus pulsating through the Church into our own personal lives of witness and service, that His most holy Will be done in us and through us; again, as Jesus when on earth, said, ‘Father, not My will but Thine be done.’

At present our Western world is allowing itself to be diabolically deceived as it proudly endeavours to demonstrate itself to be holy without God.  Let not us, People of God -- chosen, proud, and eternally grateful to be Catholic and Christian -- be infected by any such ‘holiness’.  Let us, on the contrary, consider ever more humbly and attentively St. Peter’s advice and guidance:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear