The Sixth Sunday of Easter [A]
Acts 8:5-8,14-17 + 1 Peter 3:15-18 + John 14:15-21
“… the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept ….”
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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:
CCC 2746-2751: Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper
CCC 243, 388, 692, 729, 1433, 1848: the Holy Spirit as Advocate/Consoler
CCC 1083, 2670-2672: invoking the Holy Spirit
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As the weeks of the Easter Season draw on, we hear more and more in the Scriptures at Holy Mass about God the Holy Spirit. We hear less and less about Jesus, or so it seems.
In the forty days between His Resurrection and His Ascension to Heaven, Jesus is—so to speak—weaning His disciples. He’s helping them realize that He’s not going to be with them in the same way anymore. He will be with them: He’ll be with them always, “unto the end of the age.” But He will not be with them physically as He was during the three years of His public ministry. He will not be at their sides to point the way or for them to talk with face-to-face.
Yet God the Holy Spirit will make Jesus Christ present in a new way. In a sense, that’s what the Easter Season is designed by God to lead us to. Pentecost Sunday is not just the fiftieth of fifty days celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. Pentecost is the culmination of the Season of Easter. As such, Pentecost is the celebraton of God the Holy Spirit making Jesus present in this world in a new way: that is, the Church.
We hear about this new way in the midst of the Third Eucharistic Prayer at Holy Mass. Almost the whole second half of the Eucharistic Prayer—following the consecration—is about the Church. The priest prays one petition after another on behalf of the Church. In the Third Eucharistic Prayer, in the second petition following the consecration, the priest prays: “… grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son, and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.” This unity in Christ is what the Easter Season leads us towards, and is the heart of the mystery of Pentecost.
This is one reason why the Church calls all of us—her children—together on the Lord’s Day: not only to be united with God through Holy Communion, but also to be united more strongly with each other. The Mass—like the whole Christian life—is not just about me and Jesus. Coming together through the Mass is the greatest way that God has to unite us poor, fallen sinners into the one body of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the One who helps us see why and how this is.
The Holy Spirit, like the ligaments that hold parts of our physical bodies together, binds us together to make us one body in Christ. Even when we are separated from our loved ones by great distances, or even by death itself, the Holy Spirit sustains our relationships. The Body of Christ cannot be diminished or destroyed by distance or death. Indeed, the Church is not limited to those among her children living on earth (called the Church Militant). She is also made up of those in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) and in Heaven (the Church Triumphant).
Even more challenging than the barriers of distance and death is that of division. The Holy Spirit helps us love others even when it is difficult to do so. The Power of the Holy Spirit helps us love others as God the Father loves them, part of which love is beckoning them into His embrace in Heaven. If you were to die, only to find your worst enemy at the Pearly Gates as the welcoming committee, would you refuse to enter? Is your lack of love for your enemy stronger than your love to be with God?
Likewise, the Power of the Holy Spirit helps us love others as God the Son loves them. More specifically, the Holy Spirit helps us love others as the Son loved them on Good Friday during those hours when He was fixed by nails to the Cross. In His divine intellect, Jesus at the hour of His death could see every human sinner in history, the future, and that solemn hour. Not only could Jesus see them, however. He loved them by offering His life for theirs.
Everyone around us is an important part of our spiritual life, whether we want them to be or not. Everyone plays a part in our journey on the Way of Christ Jesus. Sometimes that Way is narrow. Sometimes it demands reconciliation. The Holy Spirit is not interested in “cheap love”. The Holy Spirit leads us into the sort of love that led Jesus to Calvary: the sort of love which allowed Christ to embrace the Cross as His Father’s gift.