2014-05-19 10:37:38

6th Sunday of Easter – 25 April, 2014

Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17, 1Pet. 3: 15-18, John 14: 15-21
In 1991 an Air Canada flight ran into big trouble. Passengers were enjoying an in-flight movie on the Boeing 767 when the jumbo jet's massive engines abruptly stopped. At first only those without earphones on noticed anything. However, soon it was apparent the jet was in trouble. The pilot came on the speaker system and announced that Flight 143 would be making an emergency landing. The 69 people on board were trapped in an agonizingly slow but inescapable descent to earth. For several minutes a desperate silence hung over the cabin. Then fear gave way to screams of anxiety as the landing neared. All the latest technology could not keep the jumbo jet in the air. What had happened was this. The electronic digital fuel gauge was out of order. So the flight crew had depended on the figures given them by the refueling crew before takeoff. But someone on the refueling crew had confused pounds with kilograms. Therefore, eight hundred miles short of its destination, that mighty jet simply ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing. Fortunately no one was injured. A multimillion dollar airplane, headed in the right direction, but running out of fuel. That's what's happening to a lot of people today. They have everything in life going for them -- a new car, a wonderful home, a good education, and a good job -- and one day they wake up out of fuel. At the center of their lives there is emptiness. They don't know why they are living. There is nothing outside of themselves to live for. Don't let that happen to you. Jesus tells us that the power for successful living comes from God. It is the promised gift that Jesus offers us. "Peace be with you," he says. "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives you. Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me."

Introduction: From Easter to Pentecost our readings focus on the promises of Jesus to his disciples, especially of the Holy Spirit, and on the early apostolic preaching of the Good News of salvation. Today's readings provide answers to puzzling questions about who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and how we experience Him in our daily lives. Today’s first and second readings were chosen to help us prepare for the soon-to-be-celebrated feast of Pentecost. They show us how the Spirit worked in the everyday activities of Jesus’ first followers. The first reading describes the success of Philip among the despised Samaritans, and explains how the converted Samaritans received the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands by the apostles Peter and John. According to today's psalm, the Spirit causes believers in every age and place to experience personally the same marvelous acts of divine liberation.
The second reading explains how the Holy Spirit makes possible God-fearing lives in the midst of opposition and persecution. Today’s Gospel, a part of Jesus’ “Last supper Discourse,” describes the gift he will send, the abiding Spirit, as the Paraclete. Jesus was preparing His disciples for the day when He would no longer be with them physically. So Jesus promised to send his Spirit upon the church. The gospel reminds us that the Spirit causes Jesus to be truly present in the Church. The risen Jesus’ continued presence in us through the Holy Spirit gives meaning and purpose to all we are and all we do in his name. The Spirit reveals to us what God is really like by empowering us to practice mutual love and by providing us with trustworthy guidance. This indwelling Spirit enables us to manifest our love for God by observing the commandments of Jesus, especially the commandment of love. This commandment includes commands to recognize Jesus in the neediest, in the poor, in the sick, in the marginalized and even in the criminal ("I was in prison..."), and to be agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken and divided world.
The first reading describes the success of Philip, the Deacon, among the despised Samaritans. Owing to the vigorous persecution which began in Jerusalem after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the disciples had been dispersed. Philip turned the dispersal into an opportunity to preach the Gospel message by taking it to Samaria. Although the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, Philip followed the assignment Jesus gave the apostles in chapter 1 of Acts: "You are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes even to the ends of the earth." Peter and John also went to Samaria so that community could meet someone who had experienced the risen Jesus. The early Church believed that that no Christian community could exist without a relationship with someone who had experienced the risen Jesus. By calling down the Spirit upon the newly converted Samaritans, Peter and John brought them into fellowship with the whole Christian community, thus healing a 500-year Samaritan schism. Thus we see that the Holy Spirit operates only where there is communion with the apostles, who, as “witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection,” certify the risen One’s continued activity on earth. Through the imposition of the hands by the successors of the apostles (our bishops), we also receive the Holy Spirit. We are empowered to profess our faith boldly, to bear witness to the truth of the Lord and to stand for what is right and good. We receive the Spirit’s consolation in our difficulties.

The second reading explains how the Holy Spirit makes possible God-fearing lives in the midst of opposition and persecution. Peter warns that God-fearing Christians shouldn't be surprised by angry outbursts of resentment and militant confrontation. He clearly encourages the persecuted Christians to keep to the moral high ground no matter how much they're mistreated.
If we are willing to suffer for Christ and with him, God will see us through and will vindicate us. Meanwhile, we have the consolation of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts and who raised Christ from death. But those who refuse to die and rise with Jesus constantly keep the Spirit away. Peter also advises the newly baptized in his community that Jesus must be so much a part of their lives that his dying and rising comes through even in the way they respond to questions about their faith. "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. “
Exegesis: The context: Jesus' promise to his disciples of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15 -21) is part of the long "Farewell Discourse" near the end of John's gospel. Jesus gave this sermon to his disciples just prior to his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. This long sermon is a unique summary of the mystery of the incarnation and the role of the Holy Spirit. God's promise of the Holy Spirit should not have been a mystery to the followers of Jesus who knew the Holy Scriptures. The origin of this promise can be traced to the Old Testament Books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the days of the prophets, God had promised to make a new covenant [Jer. 31:31] with His people. He had promised to put His law within His people, writing it on their hearts, that He might be their God and they might be His people [Jer. 31:33]. He had also promised to put a new spirit within His people, to remove their hearts of stone and to give them a heart of flesh [Ezek. 11:19, 18:31, 36:26]. And finally, God had promised to put His Spirit within His people to make them follow His statutes and be careful to observe His ordinances [Ezek. 36:27]. Paul tells us that this promise has been fulfilled: "Do you not know that you are God's Temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" [1 Cor. 3:16].
The Jewish concept of Spirit: In Hebrew the word for spirit is ruach – in Greek, pneuma; in Latin, spiritus – all of which suggest breathing. The idea is that when a person is breathing, he is alive. It is from this notion that the idea of an animating, life-giving, intelligent and active force comes. The word (in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin), thus meant “breath”, “life” and “spirit.” The Jewish tradition taught that when the Messiah came, God’s very own life (breath, spirit) would be poured out upon all the faithful believers.

The promise of the Paraclete – the Comforter, Helper or Counselor: To Jesus, real love is something difficult and it must be expressed not as sentiment or emotion but as real obedience to God. So we weak human beings need the daily assistance of a divine helper in the person of the Holy Spirit to practice real love. The Greek word used in John’s gospel for this helper is
parakletos. For the Greeks, the word parakletos meant a lawyer, a legal assistant, a courtroom advocate. Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit is our legal assistant who speaks up for us when we're accused, judged, or wrongly condemned or a witness who testifies in our behalf. Parakletos can also refer to a person who comforts, counsels or strengths us in time of need. The Holy Spirit gives us life, stands by us, defends us, strengthens us, and consoles us. Jesus was the first Paraclete sent by the Father. “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” (I John 2:1). Since Jesus’ presence as a Paraclete was limited in time and place, he assured his disciples of "another Paraclete" in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit assists us in our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life in the true Christian spirit. The Paraclete is our defense attorney defending us before God, the Judge. Although the penalty for our sins has been paid in full by Jesus, we still need the help of the Holy Spirit in our daily struggles. In addition to being companion, defense attorney, witness and prosecutor, the Paraclete will also be present to teach the disciples and to remind them of what Jesus had taught them (14:25-26). (For the additional roles of the Holy Spirit confer John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7-14).
Assurance of the Risen Lord’s presence with us. Jesus assures his disciples that they will not be left as orphans. He promises them awareness of his risen presence – in themselves, in each other, in the Church, in Scripture, in the Sacraments and in the praying community -- through the enlightening presence, teaching and action of the Holy Spirit. We will never have to face any trial alone—even death—if we walk with Jesus. He protects us from the Evil One. His resurrection, in fact, changed the despair of the apostles to hope when they realized beyond doubt that he is the Son of God. "You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" (John 14:20). The indwelling Spirit of God nourishes us each time we receive the sacraments, each time we pray, each time we read the Bible.

Life message: 1) We need to be open to the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete. The purpose of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to help us grow towards maturity and wholeness. We all have faults that prevent our growth: blocks of sin and imperfection, blocks due to childhood conflicts, blocks due to deeply ingrained personality traits and habits, blocks caused by addictions, and blocks resulting from bad choices we have made. We all have these blocks within us and they keep us from becoming what God wants us to be. They prevent us from growing into maturity and wholeness. God, the Holy Spirit, helps us see the truth about ourselves, to discern the blocks that inhibit our growth and to allow Him to transform us. Like the good counselor He is, the Spirit enables us to become stronger. The Holy Spirit comes to our aid and gives us the strength
to make difficult and painful decisions. God’s Spirit actually lives in us, and we hear the voice of the Spirit, counseling and guiding us in the way of truth. Let us open our minds to hear Him and to obey His promptings.

Here is a Nasruddin story retold by Fr. De Mello, S. J. A relative once came to visit Nasruddin, bringing a duck as a gift. The bird was cooked and eaten. Soon one guest after another began to call, each claiming to be a friend of the friend of the "the man who brought you the duck." Each one, of course, expected to be fed and housed on the strength of that hapless bird. At length the mullah could stand it no longer. One day a stranger arrived at his house and said, "I am a friend of the friend of the kinsman who brought you the duck." And, like the others, he sat down, expecting to be fed. Nasruddin placed a bowl of steaming water before him. "What is this?" asked the stranger." "This," said the mullah, "is the soup of the soup of the duck that was brought to me by your friend." De Mello says, "One hears of people who become the disciples of the disciples of the disciples of someone who had experienced the divine. How can you kiss through a messenger?" Today’s gospel reminds us that we should have the first hand experience of the Spirit of the triune God living within us and share it with others as Philip did (Acts 8: 5-8).

(Source: Homilies of Fr. Tony Kadavil)

All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.