Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)
May 17, 2020
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

 

Introit

 

Collect

Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,
which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,
and that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Liturgy of the Word

First Reading Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to a city of Sama'ria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama'ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”

“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.

He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!

Second Reading 1 Peter 3:15-18

Beloved: In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

Gospel Acclamation

Gospel John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

Reflection Questions:

  1. How might you offer a defense for "the hope which is in you" during these trying days?
  2. How are you handing any feelings of desolation at this time?
  3. In what ways do you experience Christ being in you and you in him?

Catena Nova

 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor.” This promise shows once again Christ’s consideration. Because his disciples did not yet know who he was, it was likely that they would greatly miss his companionship, his teaching, his actual physical presence, and be completely disconsolate when he had gone. Therefore he said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor,” meaning another like himself.…They were troubled by nothing as long as Christ was with them, but when his departure had left them desolate and very much afraid, they would be most eager to receive the Spirit. “He will remain with you.” Christ said, meaning his presence with you will not be ended by death…. For he will not be with you in the same way as I am, but will dwell in your very souls, “He will be in you.” Christ called him the Spirit of truth because the Spirit would help them to understand the types of the old law. By “He will be with you” he meant, “He will be with you as I am with you,” but he also hinted at the difference between them, namely, that the spirit would not suffer as he had done, nor would he ever depart….He said that the Spirit was another like himself, that he would not leave them, that he would come to them just as he himself had come, and that he would remain in them. Yet even this did not drive away their sadness, for they still wanted Christ himself and his companionship. So to satisfy them he said: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you.” Do not be afraid, for when I promised to send you another counselor I did not mean that I was going to abandon you for ever, nor by saying that he would remain with you did I mean that I would not see you again. Of course I also will come to you; I will not leave you orphans (St. John Chrysostom).

The person who loves God cannot help loving every other person as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is indescribable and knows no bounds. A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against anyone whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating anyone else (St. Maximus the Confessor).

We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others (St. Clare of Assisi).

With the well-tuned, harmonious harp of your divine heart, and through the power of your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, I sing to you, Lord God, lovable Father. I sing you songs of praise and thanksgiving for all creatures in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, for all which are and were and will be born. I give you thanks to the best of my ability, Lord God. You created and re-create me. Thank you for your kind forgiveness and for reassuring me of your unending love, flowing down from up above. Be my honor, Lord, my joy, my beauty, my consolation in sorrow, my counsel in uncertainty, my defense in everything unfair, my patience in problems, my abundance in poverty, my food in fasting, my sleep in vigilance, and my therapy in weakness (St. Gertrude of Helfta).

This [verse] brings out the sense in which the ‘Parakletos’ who will come will be sent in Jesus’ name (John 14:7). That is, he will bring into creative presence the person of Jesus through the loving imitation of his disciples. It is not that the Holy Spirit is simply a substitute presence, acting instead of Jesus, but rather it is by Jesus going to his death (and, by giving up his Spirit bringing to completion his creative work: ‘tetelestai,’ “it is accomplished,” 19:30) that all Jesus’ creative activity will be made alive in the creative activity of his disciples. The memory of Jesus here (‘he will bring to your remembrance’) is thus not in the first place the cure for the absence of the teacher, but the bringing to mind, and thus to the possibility of creative practice, in dependence on Jesus, of Jesus’ creative activity. This is the sense of the peace which Jesus leaves with his disciples: not the peace which is the result of the suppression of conflict, or the resolution of conflict, such as is practiced by the mechanism of expulsion of the world, but the creative peace that brings into being: the primordial peace of the Creator from the beginning (James Alison).

When Jesus returned to his Father wearing our flesh, he did not leave us orphans. He sent us his Holy Spirit, to teach us about God and ourselves; to be our Dynamo, our Power, in our journey to Jerusalem; to live in us as in a temple of God. In his own words the night before he died, “I will ask the Father, and [the Father] will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of Truth . . .” (Jn 14:16-17). . . .However humbly you think of yourself, however much you may regret what you do not have, never forget the supreme gift that is yours, more precious and more lasting than the diamonds that are supposedly for ever. You are a living tabernacle: God is alive in you (Walter Burghardt).

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere; it is within each of us (Nicholas Black Elk).

Homily

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)

 Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Pt. 3:15-18; Jn. 14:15-21

Imagine the Unimaginable

          The “forgotten Person of the Blessed Trinity.” That’s one unhappy title of the Holy Spirit.  One reason the Holy Spirit has been called that is our difficulty imagining the Spirit.  If you say “God the Father” an image of the First Person in God pops into your head -- however inadequate.  Even more does “God the Son” conjure images of the Second Person of the Trinity.  After all, the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.

           But if you say “Holy Spirit,” or worse, “Holy Ghost,” well, what comes to mind?  A dove?  Probably. When I went in search of images to place on the website this week that was almost all there was. But what is it about a dove that reflects the Third Person in God?  Its gentleness?  Certainly.  I’ve never known the Spirit to be pushy.  Its power of flight?  Yes, that also says something about the Holy Spirit.  Even a dove’s cooing could describe a bit of the Spirit’s character.  But a dove is hard to relate to, isn’t it?  Unless you’re the Birdman of Alcatraz.   

           Of course, the Bible has many other images for the Holy Spirit.  Luke portrays the Spirit as wind and tongues of fire.  Pentecost will bring these images to mind in two weeks.  John too speaks of the Spirit as wind -- the same Greek word means both “spirit” and “wind.”  And no one loves a play on words better than John.

           He also speaks of the Spirit as breath, or better, the act of breathing: as when Jesus’ exhaled his dying breath on the cross and gave up his Spirit, something he would do again the night of his resurrection, breathing on the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit.  But in these days when mouths are covered with masks and breathing is viewed as dangerous, well, the Spirit loses out again on a helpful image.

           Why, even St. Thomas Aquinas had a terrible time coming up with a way to describe the Holy Spirit because, in his own words, “The Holy Spirit does not have a proper name” – like the Father and Son do.  Nor did Thomas feel confident in describing the Sprit’s unique place in the Godhead or the Spirit’s unique mission in the world.  After all, we know what a father and a son are and how they relate to each other – begetting and begotten, as the Creed puts it.  And we know how the Father sent the Son into the world to redeem it, but what about the Spirit?  Following the Creed, the best Thomas came up with was to say the Spirit proceeds by way of “spiration,” and has something to do with our sanctification by grace.

            Now I’m being a little unfair to St. Thomas.  He did agree with a long tradition of seeing the Holy Spirit as Personal Love: the love of the Father and the Son who joins them together in the eternal embrace of Lover and Beloved, in the unity of Their Mutual Love. This is a wonderful way to imagine God: as a communion of Persons akin to the bonds which unite spouses, families, and friends.  And it is this Love of God which Paul says has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Rm. 5:5).  Still, as St. Thomas realized, a bond between human persons is not itself a “person” in our modern sense of the word – and so this image, like all images, has some real limitations.  Fortunately, the Bible and Tradition don’t fail us altogether when it comes to imagining the Holy Spirit in more accessible terms, even human ones.

            Which is why, perhaps, John also calls the Holy Spirit, “the Paraclete.”  And though it’s impossible to translate this word in a way that captures all of its richness, it nevertheless brings us into a more relatable realm.  Beginning with the translation of Paraclete as “Advocate” -- a legal term meaning “Defense Lawyer.”  That’s right, the person you hire to plead your case in a court of law, hoping to convince the judge and jury that you’re innocent, or at least that the evidence against you leaves room for a reasonable doubt.  So the Holy Spirit is the Counselor for the Defense when it comes to us who believe, but when it comes to the world, the Advocate is the Prosecutor convicting it, John says, in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation (Jn. 16:8).  I like to think here of Atticus Finch’s defense of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird.

            Others think Paraclete is better translated as “Helper.”  Now a whole slew of images comes to mind, from someone who served as your mentor or coach; to someone who rescued you from danger or saved your life; to someone who got you a job or promotion; to someone who nursed you to health or gave you assistance in a time of need.  Imagine anyone who’s helped you along the path of life, and you’ll have a pretty good image for the Spirit – and there’s no shortage of them in this time of pandemic.

            Another candidate for translating Paraclete is “Teacher.”  Who can’t imagine the Spirit in these terms?  From parents who taught us to perform the most basic tasks; to teachers who taught  us to read and write; to those who taught us wisdom a beyond the Three Rs; to those who taught us the ways of faith.  Imagine anyone who’s served as your teacher, and you’ll have another pretty good image of the Spirit.  One of my favorites is Anne Sullivan who taught Helen Keller to speak and to read despite her lack of vision and hearing.

            Still others think Paraclete should be rendered as “Comforter” -- someone who consoles us after Jesus’ departure, not leaving us orphans, as well as someone who strengthens us when faced with challenges and adversity. The Spirit, in other words, as our guardian who makes our adoption as children of God legal and who guarantees our inheritance.  For as proof that [we] are children, Paul says, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!  (Gal. 4:6)

            We could go on. But I hope these suggestions spark your imagination and make the Holy Spirit less forgotten.  And while it’s true that whatever analogy we might employ to say what God is like, God is infinitely more unlike any word or image we can come up with -- which is why a few centuries back Pope Benedict XIV forbade depicting the Holy Spirit in human form lest our imaginations run wild -- still, Paul tells us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. . .with sighs too deep for words (Rm. 8:26) – imagine that!

Intercessions (Jen Pollock Michel; Christianity Today)

For the sick and infected: God, heal and help. Sustain bodies and spirits. Contain the spread of infection.

For our vulnerable populations: God, protect our elderly and those suffering from chronic disease. Provide for the poor, especially the uninsured.

For the young and the strong: God, give them the necessary caution to keep them from unwittingly spreading this disease. Inspire them to help.

For our local, state, and federal governments: God, help our elected officials as they allocate the necessary resources for combatting this pandemic. Help them to provide more tests.

For our scientific community, leading the charge to understand the disease and communicate its gravity: God, give them knowledge, wisdom, and a persuasive voice.

For the media, committed to providing up-to-date information: God, help them to communicate with appropriate seriousness without causing panic.

For consumers of media, looking to be well-informed: God, help us find the most helpful local information to equip us to be good neighbors. Keep us from anxiety and panic, and enable us to implement the recommended strategies, even at a cost to ourselves.

For those with mental health challenges who feel isolated, anxious, and helpless: God, provide them every necessary support.

For the homeless, unable to practice the protocols of social distancing in the shelter system: Protect them from disease, and provide isolation shelters in every city.

For international travelers stuck in foreign countries: God, help them return home safely and quickly.

God, we trust that you are good and do good. Teach us to be your faithful people in this time of global crisis. Help us to follow in the footsteps of our faithful shepherd, Jesus, who laid down his life for the sake of love. Glorify his name as you equip us with everything needed for doing your will. Amen.

Offertory Chant

 

Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray in the words Christ taught us to be delivered from the power of evil….

Spiritual Communion

Lord Jesus Christ, on this Sunday when we are once again unable to gather at your Table, we nevertheless trust in your words, that you are in the Father, and we are in you, and you in us.  Make yourself present to us once again through the Comforter you have promised so that, as you live, so shall we in the Communion of your Mystical Body.

Communion Chant

 

Closing Hymn

 

Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far out-pass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.