May 21: Sixth Sunday of Easter
As we approach the end of the Easter season, our mother Church helps us to begin focusing more on the work of the Holy Spirit. We are asking God, the creator, to send the Spirit, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, into our lives and to conform us to the will of the Father. The Holy Spirit equips us with the answers that we need to give about our faith.
Can you give convincing reasons for your belief in Christ and the Church? Are you ready to stand up for Jesus in the face of opposition, misinterpretation, slander and false accusations with regard to the teachings of Christ and the Gospel? Or do we, in the face of criticism, fight shy of our beliefs and hide among the crowd for fear that others will know that we are Catholics?
How many Catholics have left the Church to join other churches or religions because, when their faith was challenged, they suddenly found that they had no Catholic friends to explain to them their beliefs and the doctrines. Because of a poor understanding of their faith and a lack of personal relationship with the Lord, they leave the Church.
Indeed, in many instances, it does not pay to be known as a Catholic because there are many who are biased against us. I am told that even our young school children are mocked in school by their non-Catholic friends for the faith they hold. Ask them about it.
But God promised to put His Spirit within His people to make them follow His statutes, be firm and careful to observe His ordinances, even in the face of persecutions. The persecution of the Church is not new. Since the beginning, the Church has always been persecuted. At its beginning the Church was persecuted by both the Jews and the Romans for hundreds of years. Many died as martyrs for the faith. In fact, Philip himself went to Samaria to preach the gospel only because “a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1)
The first reading of today describes how the Holy Spirit helped Philip to preach powerfully and convert the Samaritans in large numbers. It also explains how the baptized Samaritans received a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands by the apostles Peter and John. In the second reading, Peter shows us how the God-fearing live. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for believers, to live in the midst of opposition and persecution. How, then, should we give an account of our faith to those who do not believe as we do? St. Peter urges us to “give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience.” Our attitude should not be one of anger, resentment or retaliation. Rather, if we truly believe in what we say we believe, we must not attack those who do not agree with us.
Persecutions should be viewed positively. They help us to distinguish true believers from nominal believers. Indeed, in life our true friends are those who stand by us in times of need and trouble. Fair-weather friends we have plenty, but they are there only because they can take advantage of you. It is time to examine ourselves! What sort of Catholic are you? Are you a Catholic that can stand up for Jesus to support and defend His Church?
Today in the Gospel Jesus describes the gift he will send, the Holy Spirit, who will live as the Paraclete, the Divine Advocate, in those who obey Jesus’ commandments, especially the commandment of love. Thus, Jesus will continue to live in his believers with the Father and the Holy Spirit and they will not be left as orphans. The risen Jesus’ continued presence in us and in the Church through the Holy Spirit gives meaning and purpose to all that we are and all that we do in his Name. As the Divine Advocate, the Holy Spirit will instruct us in Jesus’ doctrines and illumine our minds to receive deeper knowledge of our Faith. The Divine Advocate will empower us to defend our Faith powerfully and guide us properly in the practice of true Christian love. Thus, we will be able to recognize Jesus in the in the poor, in the sick, in the homeless, in the marginalized, in the outcast, in the drug addicts and even in the criminals. Thus we become agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken and divided world.
So let us ask: Do you earnestly and genuinely wish for the Spirit of truth to enter into your hearts and stay with you always? If we are at all uncertain about any of our answers to these questions, then let us pray. Let us pray that we might truly be open to the scriptures, open to the teachings of the Catholic Church, open to Jesus and what he asks of us in love.