St Francis Q&A

Monday, April 28, 2008

6th Sunday of Easter - homily

You’ve heard much commentary and many reactions to the Papal visit, especially the Papal Mass. One comment that I’ve heard from many people is that they were so struck by the experience of 46,000 people saying the responses and singing the hymns in unison. For some, it was an experience of Heaven with what sounded like angelic choirs singing God’s praises in unison. It was an overwhelming experience for many people, and one that I think we were not expecting. One reaction I’ve had to the Mass was that it was an experience of the Holy Spirit. In light of that experience and today’s readings, it is fitting to ask, ‘who is the Holy Spirit and what evidence is there of the Spirit’s activity in the world?’

There is much evidence from Scripture about the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. In the life of Christ, the Spirit is very much present. It is “by the power of the Holy Spirit” that Christ is conceived and brought into the world. Jesus is “led by the Spirit” at significant events in his life. And, as we just heard in the second reading, it is “in the Spirit” that Christ was raised from the dead.

In the life of the early Church, the Spirit is all over the place. We hear from the Acts of the Apostles throughout the Easter season; many scholars refer to the Acts of the Apostles as the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit”. The Spirit is mentioned at the beginning of Acts, descending on the Apostles as tongues of fire at Pentecost. There are many references to the Apostles being “filled with the Spirit” in their preaching and teaching. The Spirit directed and instructed the Apostles in their decisions and actions in setting up the early Church. The Spirit even spoke on a few occasions in Acts.

But, who is the Holy Spirit? Our theology tells us that He is the third person of the Holy Trinity. Christ tells us more about the Spirit in the Gospel. The Spirit is the “Advocate” or “Consoler”. Christ is the first Advocate; the Spirit is the second. He is the “Spirit of Truth”. The Spirit has been guiding the Church for 2000 years since Pentecost in Truth. We can have great confidence as Catholics that the teachings of our Church have been based in Truth because the Church is led by the Spirit of Truth.

The Spirit is the one through whom Christ comes to us. He tells us that he “will not leave us as orphans” and that He “will come to us”. This is all on the heels of telling us that He will send the Spirit. It is through the Spirit, then, that Christ comes to us. We know this is true when it come to the Eucharist, especially if we pay attention to the words of the Eucharistic prayer. In a few minutes, I will ask the Father, “send your Spirit upon these gifts to make them holy, that they may become for us the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ”. We have no clue HOW this happens – no clue how the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. But, we believe THAT it happens through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus comes to us in the Spirit, may the Spirit help us to love Jesus and know the love of our Father. May each one of us know the love of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.


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