Homily – Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 22, 2022
This week marks the 26th anniversary of my father’s death. I have vivid memories of that day, driving to the hospital to tell my dad “goodbye” and hearing the song “Because You Loved Me” on the radio as I drove. The chorus of the song really resonated with me as I heard Celine Dione sing:
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me
The music brought tears to my eyes, but also brought a feeling of peace; it helped prepare me for my final, inevitable “goodbye” with Dad.
I believe this was the Holy Spirit living and working in me, helping guide me through a difficult time, and reminding me of how I experienced the love of Christ through my parents.
Today’s Gospel is the completion of what is known as the Last Discourse – where Jesus shares a final meal, and final thoughts with his closest followers. His parting gift to them is peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” And he instructs them “Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid.” He reminds them that his Father will send an Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to guide them, and to help them recall all that Jesus had taught them.
This had to be comforting to the disciples during that time of anxiousness and sadness, waiting for Christ’s pending departure. While some would see Jesus after his Resurrection, the close intimacy his friends experienced each day was ending. No more would they see his friendly face or hear his reassuring voice. No longer would they gather to share a meal as family. No longer would they witness the loving and gentle nature of Christ as he washed their feet.
Jesus reassures them that they will not be abandoned; that God will send an advocate (the Holy Spirit) to guide them. And he does. We see how this plays out in our First Reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles. The early Church experiences growing pains and must navigate through conflict and disillusionment. The Church resolves the question of whether Gentile (non-Jewish) converts need to observe certain Jewish ritual practices.
The resolution came by listening to and cooperating with the Holy Spirit. We hear this in the way the apostles and elders proclaim the resolution. They begin by saying “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us” who have made this decision. The Holy Spirit played a prominent role in the decision-making process. There was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was at work in guiding the deliberation.
So what do we learn from all of this? How do these teaching apply to us? They remind us that by listening attentively to the Spirit promised by Jesus, we can share the same type of peace Jesus shared with his followers; the same type of peace that helps us know the will of God; the same type of peace that tells us “Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid”
We are called to follow the example of the apostles – to call on the Holy Spirit (alive in us through our Baptism) to help guide us. And how do we grow in our response to the Spirit? Here are some thoughts:
- Increase the amount of time you spend in honest reflection, quieting yourself and listening for the promptings of the Spirit. Read a section of scripture and reflect on what God wants you to know and learn from his Word.
- Open your mind and heart to other points of view. The early Church adapted different rituals and guides to reflect a growing Church. What points of view do you need to consider, allowing your heart and mind to grow and be more open to the Spirit?
- Invite the Holy Spirit into your prayers and discernment as you navigate conflict and challenges in your life. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit and allow the Spirit to take the lead.
- Increase your commitment to serving others. By being other-focused, we have a better perspective of the ways we can follow the Spirit in doing God’s work.
The secret to having a Spirit-filled relationship with God is centered in prayer, open to possibilities for growth, and responsive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
I encourage you: This week, spend some time reflecting on the Holy Spirit alive in you.
And as we prepare to share Eucharist today, let us renew our commitment to live a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life.
And remember: You are everything you are because God loves you!