May 28, 2011

6th Easter: "He will give you another Advocate . . ."

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

The other day the news reported: “17 lost pyramids discovered in Egypt.” I thought, "Well that's wonderful but how does one loose a pyramid?" Even more incredulous than loosing a pyramid, they were found through a satellite photo taken hundreds of miles above the earth! Now, that's some lens. How is it possible not to have seen them before?” Was this some sort of David Copperfield magical slight of hand?

Well, over centuries of shifting sand and wind, they were covered with layers of earth and no archaeologist ever looked in that area because they were not visible. Smaller than the other famous ones in Egypt, they were entombed only to be discovered at a later time.

Maybe we ask the same question about our faith. How would it be possible, considering today’s sophisticated technology and 2, 000 years of Christian history, that the name and person of Jesus Christ has not been heard by everyone? Are there people on this planet today who have never heard about Jesus? It’s hard to imagine there might be, so it’s far more likely that even though they have heard of him, they know little about him. This is our moment for evangelizing. Twenty centuries ago it was all new.

The Acts of the Apostles this Sunday describes an exciting scene: unclean spirits, “crying out in a loud voice;” “with one accord, the crowds paid attention;” “many possessed people;” “great joy . . .” What seems to me a very noisy early Church such was the experience of the early Christians through the ministry of the Apostles. Preaching, proclaiming, crying out, and great joy are emotive and contagious experiences. Was this just mass hysteria whipped up by a frenzied crowd? Were the Apostles really in control of what happened? God is clearly at work here in the Spirit’s effort to deeply plant the faith.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus reassure his Apostles that his gift of the Spirit “will not leave you orphans. . .” Rather, “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always . . .” Another advocate? This implies that Jesus himself has always acted in the best interest of not only his Apostles but on behalf of all humanity. Now that he is preparing to leave the earth another will come in his place; his “agent” as it were. That Spirit will continue to guide, teach, protect, defend, and stand by us as our “advocate” as the mission of Jesus continues in every age and time until he returns. That Spirit who is God himself.

Our experience of the faith today may be somewhat less frenzied than the early Church. However, the same Spirit which manifested itself so obviously then, still reveals its presence today in our ordained leaders, our sacraments, through our institutions of health care, education, charitable works, through the heroic witness of modern day saints, in our liturgies, personal devotions, private prayer and of course in that community by which most experience the Church – our parishes. We are still a “noisy” Church. Yet, in this age of technical wonders we have grown naturally skeptical. We are not easily swayed by the supernatural and often turn to science and our own natural intelligence for concrete answers.

But deep down we still know that God continues to write on each human heart a natural attraction for the divine. The good news of the Gospel needs to be heard loud and clear in every generation. But we cannot achieve this on our own – the Spirit of truth abides in his Church and our relationships built in faith.

We are called by Christ to fraternal love, “agape” which is the union between ourselves and God; that union is built upon the presence of the Holy Spirit between us and that unity can be our gift to a fractured world: Love between the Father and the Son and that same love gives life between the Son and followers. Jesus desires that same agape love between the followers themselves in this life. In that way our witness to the Gospel is made believable.  There is no more graphic expression of that agape unity than in the gathering of our Eucharistic liturgy. One Body of Christ, united in faith with Christ as our Head and the Spirit as our life all in one great prayer of thanksgiving to the Father.

Imagine this fellowship of relationships, divine bound tightly with the human.  We are like strings bound together into a strong rope.  One string alone remains weak but bound together with the others we become strong for the very life of the Spirit is what gives us fortitude to keep the Commandments in our love for one another.

Read the Gospel over this week and reflect on any one of the sound bites that Jesus provides. Each one of them is rich for meditation:

- I will not leave you orphans.
- If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- I live and you will live.
- I am in my Father and you are in me.
- Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.

Where can I see the Holy Spirit active in my life at the present time? How, where, or to whom am I feeling called to be a messenger of the good news?

Come Holy Spirit; inflame in us the fire of your love”