The Sixth Sunday of Easter [A]

The Sixth Sunday of Easter [A]
Acts 8:5-8,14-17  +  1 Peter 3:15-18  +  John 14:15-21
May 21, 2017

“‘And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate.’”

This morning’s Gospel passage is set at the Last Supper.  Although Jesus’ disciples only dimly know at this point what’s ahead for Him, the Lord Himself knows completely.  Jesus was fully God all the days that He walked this earth.  He had divine knowledge, and fore-knowledge.  So what He said at the Last Supper was part of a plan.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate.”  In speaking these words, Jesus is looking beyond His death, beyond His resurrection, and beyond His ascension.  Jesus is looking to the day of Pentecost.

Now it’s true:  we shouldn’t forget that on the evening of His resurrection, Jesus said to His Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive and forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”[1]  The Holy Spirit works in the Sacrament of Confession to forgive and heal.  But when—to use a different sort of example—you go to your physician to be healed of sickness or disease, your aim is full health, so you can live your life again.  Something similar is at work in the spiritual life.  When we go to Confession to be healed of spiritual sickness, our aim is full health, so we can live our spiritual life again.

But that begs the question.  What is that spiritual life, and what role does the Holy Spirit—the Advocate—play within it?  Those mysteries are what we’re preparing to celebrate in two weeks on Pentecost Sunday, the day sometimes called “the birthday of the Church”.  But even today, two Sundays before Pentecost, Jesus is preparing us.  He wants us to understand how the Gift of the Holy Spirit animates the Christian life.

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First, consider what the Creed tells us about the Holy Spirit.  We’re going to profess the Creed in just a few minutes.  If you wish, open your missalette to page 133 where the Creed is printed.  On page 133 we see the Creed printed in 32 lines.  Only four of these lines concern the Holy Spirit directly.

In the Creed, the Christian disciple professes:  “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.”  Did you hear the two titles by which we honor the Holy Spirit?  First we profess that the Holy Spirit is our “Lord”, and then that the Holy Spirit is “the giver of life”.  Both of these titles run very much against the grain of the modern world.

In our day and age, when equality and individualism are so highly prized, we minimize the notion of God as our Lord.  Now, God the Father we might more easily consider as a “lordly” figure.  But less so would we consider Jesus our Lord, who is more often thought of as our friend and Savior.

Least of all do Christians today consider the Holy Spirit to be their Lord.  We often reduce the Holy Spirit to a gentle spirit:  a spiritual breeze who encourages us to follow our spiritual hunches.  Without overlooking the truth of the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Advocate, we must recognize the Holy Spirit as our Lord.

We are meant to be subject to the Holy Spirit.  He means to rule our lives, to give them order and purpose.  He means to do this for the same reason that Jesus came into this world, Jesus our Good Shepherd who proclaimed:  “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”[2]

This life is what we’re speaking about when we profess the Holy Spirit to be “the giver of life”.  This abundant life is what gives our earthly days meaning.  When we choose to recognize the Holy Spirit as our Lord, when we choose to recognize the Holy Spirit as the giver of abundant life, there is peace.  Do you want this peace?  Or do you want what the world offers?

I have to admit that as time goes on, I read newspapers less and less.  In the lives of actors, athletes, and politicians (among others), we hear justifications for the unjustifiable.  In fact, no one is obligated to listen to someone who’s trying to justify his sins.  No one has the right to defend indefensible actions.  No one has the right to explain the inexplicable.  But the world goes on doing so.  As Christians, we need instead to allow the Holy Spirit to be our Lord:  to rule our lives and give them order, even when this demands that we admit our sins.

This past week we were privileged to have our beloved Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, offer to the world a new message.  As you know, he spends his days now in seclusion, dedicated to prayer and study.  But in his message released this week, he began by quoting a first-century saint.  St. Ignatius of Antioch insisted:  “It is better to keep silence and be [a Christian] than to talk and not to be.”[3]  How much more peaceful would the world be if we all took these words to heart?  Instead, each person insists that he is the Lord of his own life, instead of ceding that role to the Holy Spirit.

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So, given all this, how can we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives?  How can we allow the Holy Spirit lordship over our lives?

One simple way is frequent, worthy reception of the sacraments.  Of course, receiving the sacraments is not the same thing as frequent, worthy reception of the sacraments.  Preparing ourselves to receive the sacraments worthily, and then availing ourselves of the opportunities to share in God’s abundant life, draws us into the Love who is the Holy Spirit.

Another way to foster devotion, dedication, and service to the Holy Spirit is to make a Novena to Him.  We can make this novena any time during the year, of course, but it’s very powerful to make this novena on the nine days before Pentecost.  So I encourage you to take a copy of this novena, found near the entrances of the church, in order to ask the Holy Spirit to be your Lord, the giver of His abundant life.[4]


[1] John 20:23.

[2] John 10:10.

[3] Quoted in “With Cardinal Sarah, the Liturgy Is in Good Hands”, by Benedict XVI (dated May 17, 2017 at https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/05/with-cardinal-sarah-the-liturgy-is-in-good-hands).

[4] Here is one of several Novenas to God the Holy Spirit: http://www.scborromeo.org/prayers/novenahs.pdf

Easter 6A Holy Spirit