21 May 20176 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - John 14:15-21

A sailboat got caught in heavy seas. A rogue wave flipped the boat over. The heavy keel righted the boat, but there was heavy damage. A SOS brought the Coast Guard (CG). The seas were so rough the CG ship could not rescue the crew. So, it placed itself as close as it could to the sailboat. The CG protected the sailboat from the brunt of the 10 foot waves. Finally they made port. The Holy Spirit plays the same relation to us. He takes the brunt of our troubles. He not only lives inside us but also He walks beside us. He brings us into port. (Unknown) Jesus in this Gospel told the apostles the extraordinary statement He would not leave them orphans. The setting was the Last Supper. He had announced His impending departure.

The twelve were wiped out. The Christ had to lift His people off the floor and put them back on their soft cushions. He promised to continue His presence with them through a Helper. He would serve as their eternal Deus ex machina. The Helper would be the Holy Spirit. Jesus in John's Gospel uses the Greek word menein forty times. It translates as abide or remain or stay. He remains with us through the Holy Spirit or Parakletos. Parakletos is a tough word to translate into English. A popular translation is Comforter. That term is traced to the fourteenth century English reformer, John Wycliff. (William Barclay) The word does a disservice to the Third Person of the Trinity. A comforter is understood as one who stands about waiting till we fall on our faces. Then he slips us chocolate with a sympathy card and tells us, "No problem." The Spirit will do that. But His role as Dutch uncle is but a small part of His assignment.

The Parakletos is one who will be right next to us on our journey as a companion, even a buddy. He will support us so that we seldom fall on our faces. He will be our Knight Protector. It is the Spirit who will lead the rescuing cavalry when we find ourselves surrounded by the bad guys. Much of our lives we looked for God in the momentous while He's been waiting in the moment. (Michael Yaconelli) Waiting patiently for us in the moment is the Holy Spirit. Many college students I worked with said, "I just can't cope any longer." I told them that I found myself in similar situations often. But then I took ten, sipped a cup of hazelnut coffee, and prayed to the Parakletos. And, more often than not, what had been a stressful situation eased off and sometimes disappeared entirely. I told them I was falling back on that wonderful promise of Jesus, "I will not leave you orphans." In many areas, I am a Bible-belt fundamentalist. I hold Jesus to all His promises. I expect the Holy Spirit to deliver. He is a legal and healthy steroid. I am seldom disappointed. But I did emphasize for the students that the Helper is not a party crasher.

He waits for an invitation. Then He will come and ring our bell loudly with His elbow. His hands will be filled with gifts. They are outlined in the Scriptures. He leads us into truth (Jn 16:13.) He guarantees we are God's children (Rom 8:16). He helps us pray (Rom 8:26). He offers us hope (Rom 15:13). He empowers us to help other believers (1 Cor 12:4). He aids us to be another Christ (2 Cor 3:18). He gives us spiritual muscle (2 Cor 3:18). (Barclay) However, He expects that we will join our physical bulk, intellectual energy, and the gifts He has already given to us at Baptism and Confirmation to His new gifts. The Parakletos is summed up well in these lyrical words. Eternally the Holy Spirit is love between the Father and the Son but historically the Holy Spirit is love between God and the world. (Daniel Durkin) The Church's historical record over two millennia shows that Jesus did not pull the legs of the apostles. He did not leave them orphans. Nor do people of faith accept that the promise has gone somewhere into limbo in the contemporary Church. Moving about post-Christian Europe, I met many young Christians. They were working for the Gospel in almost hopeless situations. Yet, each of them assured me, "The Holy Spirit will think of something." None of them showed fear. They were serene. The Spirit had much to do with that serenity. They had not forgotten the promise of Jesus. They did not feel orphans. They are a "creative minority." (Benedict XVI) Their main advocate, the Holy Spirit, stands before them like an unconquerable mountain.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter: Suffering for Good

"If it be God's will that you suffer, it is better that you suffer for good deeds rather than for evil ones” 1 Peter 3:16 A young girl comes to a pregnancy center, much like ours. Perhaps it was ours. Perhaps not. She has a difficult decision to make. She is pregnant and wants to know more about the baby. If she chooses to bring the baby to term, than she'll miss her prom, and people will talk about her. If she chooses to eliminate the baby's life now, people will forget about her condition and her life will appear to go on normal, but she knows that she will always remember the baby she had killed. She chooses to do what is right. That choice means immediate suffering, but knowing forever that she the world is richer for a new life that for whom she is giving birth. If it be God's will that you suffer, it is better that you suffer for good deeds rather than for evil ones. Their son asks for a graduation party with all the fixings. That means he wants one with a keg and drinks. He says, "The kids are going to drink anyway, at least they will be supervised here." They know he is right. They also know that if they don't give in, he'll make life difficult for them. However, they know that they can't be responsible for what the other kids do outside their home, but they are responsible for what happens inside their house.

Maybe even if they are alcohol free, the kids will drink after the party, maybe they won't. They know they can't win, but they also know that if they stand up to what they know is right, they can't lose. If it be God's will that you suffer, it is better that you suffer for good deeds rather than for evil ones. She really needs a better job. She knows that a few words from her in the right place would jeopardize her boss's position. If he were gone, someone else would be moved up. Then she could see a promotion in her future. All she would have to do is say that he has harassed her. Besides, about a year and a half ago he asked her if she’d care to have a drink with him. He's married and has kids. She said she didn’t like to mix work with her personal life, and he never brought it up again. He has always been professional with her and a gentleman. Still, he has a bad reputation. Some say he's a low-life, always dating other girls. Now the company is investigating him and calling her in. She needs a promotion. But she also knows it would be a lie to claim harassment. True, her chances of a promotion are limited if he keeps his position, but she decides to tell the truth. If it be God's will that you suffer, it is better that you suffer for good deeds rather than for evil ones. The retired couple want to get married.

When their first spouses died years ago, neither thought they would ever marry again, but they met each, grew comfortable in their relationship and decided that they would like to marry. If they do marry, they will lose some of their retirement benefits. If they just move in together, they would keep these benefits. The only thing is that they know that this is wrong. What would they tell their children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren? How do they justify living as husband and wife and not being married after they have been the ones adamant that the faith be passed on to the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? It looks like they can't win. "But,” they reason, "with the Lord we really can't lose.” If it be God's will that you suffer, it is better that you suffer for good deeds rather than for evil ones. We have to make continual choices in our lives. Many times these choices seem to be a choice of which suffering we are going to accept. We may suffer if we choose what we know is the right thing to do. We may suffer if we choose that which we know is not right. We are fooling ourselves if we think that we will not have to answer in this life and the next for choices we know are not the best. We are forgetting what Christianity is. If we want to enjoy the joy of the Jesus' resurrection, if we want the eternal life of Easter, then we first must join Him in accepting suffering for good on the cross. If it be God's will that we suffer, it is better that we suffer for good deeds rather than for evil ones.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
6 Easter
Life in Christ Week 6: Ask (May 21, 2017)

Message: Besides benefiting someone else having a ready explanation increases your own resolve and trust: to ask God for what you need. We are now in our sixth week of the Easter homily series Life in Christ. That life comes to us through the sacraments and through listening to Jesus. That listening takes place in daily walk with Jesus. As we saw, he walks with his disciples by opening the Scriptures and by breaking bread - the Eucharist, the Mass. Jesus guides us like a shepherd and gives visible shepherds - the pope and bishops. For the past two Sundays we have seen that gratitude - giving thanks - is central. In some way our Life in Christ is gratitude. This Sunday's readings invite us to take a further step - to ask. Jesus says, "I will ask the Father..." If Jesus needs to ask the Father, how much more you and me? We come to God by asking. Some of you have learned the TARP method of prayer.

The first two letters - T & A - refer to thanking and asking. If we did nothing more than thank and ask, that would be a pretty good prayer. Sometimes we fear asking. Maybe like the young man who fears asking his girl to marry him. She might say no or laugh. But Jesus tells us to ask and we will receive, to seek and we will find, to knock and the door will be opened. I remember once facing financial difficulties. It seemed like my parish was sinking and me with it. Someone suggested the Infant of Prague novena. I did the nine days of prayer and received an impressive answer. I didn't get adopted by Bill Gates, but Jesus did bring the relief I was looking for. Today I have the Infant of Prague on the top shelf of my office. The Child Jesus reminds me: Ask and you shall received. Of course start with gratitude. Acknowledge what God has already given you, then place your most pressing needs before him. And don't forget others who may be in more distress than you. Ask. To ask involves trust. In our second reading we have something that will help increase our trust. St. Peter says, "Be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope." Being ready to give an explanation will strengthen one's own resolve. For example someone might ask why you go to church.

Let me suggest some reasons, some talking points. You could say, "to hear God's Word and receive Jesus in Communion." That's a good comprehensive response, but you want something snappier. Here are some simple talking points: Life is strange and I need all the help I can get. I'm in a marathon - if don't train, I won't make the finish line. I'm part of a family: I need them and they need me. In the bulletin I put a list of top ten reasons to go to Mass. The point is if you have an explanation ready it will not only help someone else; it will help your resolve. We need resolve. When we worked our way through Matthew Kelly's Resisting Happiness we saw how resistance stops us from doing things we know are important: exercise, eating right, getting to bed and getting up early. These things make a difference, but how much more important are daily prayer and weekly Mass - Keeping the Lord's Day!

So have an explanation ready: Life is strange, I need all the help I can get. I'm running a marathon. I'm part of a family. Having an explanation ready will strengthen your resolve. If you fumble to find an answer, don't worry. Pick one simple explanation. Mine is "I need all the help I can get." Or to put it another way: He is God and I am not. Besides benefiting someone else, having a ready explanation increases your own resolve and trust: to ask God for what you need. Remember the example of Jesus. He tells us he will ask the Father and the Father will give us the greatest gift. We will hear about that gift over the next two weekends. For today consider that asking - like thanking - is central to Life in Christ. By thanking and asking you increase your trust. Put your most pressing need before Jesus. Ask and you will receive. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter,
Classic John 14:15-21

Gospel Summary
To love Jesus means to trust him. And that means that we trust his radical teaching about an ideal of unselfish loving. Those who think this is dangerous foolishness belong to the "world," which is interested only in self-promotion and self-protection. The secular ideal is to take care of oneself first, and to think of others later…which too often means not at all. Jesus knows that his teaching seems unpromising and so he sends to those who try to be unselfish an Advocate who is the "Spirit of truth." This divine Spirit will be present to our inmost being and will assure us that the path traced out by Jesus will in fact lead to freedom and joy. This powerful Spirit will also guide us in knowing how to love properly in all the circumstances of our lives. Those who are truly concerned for the welfare of others will often appear foolish and may even be ridiculed for their apparently improvident behavior. But the Spirit will convince them that they are with Jesus, and therefore with the Father. For "… whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." Life Implications As mere creatures, we are all vulnerable to a deep anxiety about personal extinction. For this reason, being self-centered becomes a kind of defense mechanism by which we struggle to hold ourselves together against all the forces of disintegration. The gospels tell us, however, that it is only by taking the risk of reaching out in love that our identity can be assured. Those who seem to gain their lives in this world by selfish behavior will lose it, and those who seem to lose their lives by loving others will gain it back again in the richest measure imaginable. In attempting to live this paradox, we are assured of the gift of the divine Spirit, who will stand by us (which is what Paraclete/Advocate literally means) and will give us a deep confidence about the wisdom of the way of Jesus. Contrary to all expectations, the more we dare to reach out in love to others, the more our "home base" will be protected and strengthened. When Jesus promised an Advocate to his disciples, who dreaded his imminent departure from them, he was telling them that he would be with them in this divine Spirit more truly than he had ever been present to them in the flesh. This re-assurance is meant for us also. Sometimes we may think that those who knew Jesus in his earthly life had a great advantage over us but this is not at all the case. Jesus is far more truly present now "in the Spirit" than he ever was in his bodily existence in Palestine. As we struggle to maintain our identity as good and loving persons, we must know that Jesus is ever at our side. The most important consequence of this presence of Jesus in our lives is the profound conviction, given to us by the Spirit, that we are embraced by the heavenly Father’s love, just as Jesus was embraced by that love. This is what St. Paul tells us when he writes, "God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’" (Galatians 4:6). If we listen to this Spirit, we will become ever more confident, peaceful and generous in spite of the adversities that we may find in our lives. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Modern Lectionary 55,
Gospel: John 14: 15-21

In the Easter season the readings at mass are often taken from the Acts of the Apostles and focus on the rapid growth of the Church in its earliest days. In recording these events St. Luke gave encouragement to his readers because they were largely new Christians and it was important to assure them that they had joined the "winning team". St. Luke also wove into his writing the key elements of Christian life and belief, in effect teaching a brief catechism as he narrated the Acts. Among the foundations of Christianity which he describes is the sacrament of baptism and the blessings it brings. When Peter and John prayed over the neophytes of Samaria, who had thus far "had only been baptized in the name of Jesus" (Acts 8:16), their initiation was completed and they received the same Holy Spirit that our Lord prophesied in the Gospel today: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17).

Jesus goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will come to remain with us and remind us of his own abiding presence—the Spirit would confirm all that Jesus taught us and strengthen us in living the faith: "He remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans" (John 14:17-18). What our Lord said about the Spirit in the Gospel and what Peter and John teach the Samaritans is as true of us as it was in biblical times: we too receive the surpassing gift of the Holy Spirit when we are immersed in the waters of baptism, and its wonderful vitalizing effects endure as much today as they did in the New Testament era.

The First Letter of Peter assures us of this, urging us: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet 3:15-16). It is the Spirit that inspires us in such moments of testimony, but we need our hearts to be open to the Spirit and indeed longing for it if we are to receive the fullness of its gifts. While the Church is no longer in its infancy, as in the days of the Acts, we can still make a contribution to its vibrancy today by taking seriously the presence of the Spirit in our midst and seeking to hold fast, teach, and live the faith we profess.

The parents who lovingly and devoutly raised us, the saintly sister or priest we know, or the teacher or friend—or stranger—who helped us overcome a life devoid of such positive figures: all of these welcomed the Holy Spirit into their hearts and shared it with us. Building upon their example, or bravely being willing to accept the gift of healing that carries us over the lack of such examples, it is our evangelical task to move forward in faith, sustained and renewed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept…but you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you" (John 14:17). Through the intercession of Saints Philip, Peter, and John and moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit may we "always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope” (1 Pet 3:15). Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter

We continue our reading from the Farewell Discourse as recorded in the Gospel of John which we began last week. Today we hear some very reassuring words from Jesus. He tells us that he will ask the Father to send us an Advocate to remain with us. This is, of course, none other than the Holy Spirit who will continue to lead and guide us and give us comfort in times of distress. It is an appropriate choice of reading since we are coming close to Pentecost when we celebrate the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. We will be hearing a lot more about the Holy Spirit as we come up to Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. I’d like to focus a little on the opening words of today’s text, 'If you love me you will keep my commandments.' Notice how this sentence is phrased; it says that if we love God we will keep his commandments. This is opposite to the way we would ordinarily think which is that obedience to the commandments is a precondition to our loving God. We tend to think that we can only truly love God if we are already following his commandments. But this is not how Christ sees things.

According to him having a deep love for God means that we want to please him and so we are filled with the desire to do his will and to follow his commandments. This means that our motive is not fear of a God who will punish us if we disobey him. Our motive is solely one of love and the consequent desire to please God. We need to be constantly aware that the basis of the Christian faith is love. Of course, we understand that love is what God is all about; we realise too that the only way to achieve harmony with God is to live a life filled with love. It is love which needs to be our motivating force; we need to put our whole energy into living as truly loving persons.

This will inevitably require sacrifice which is the bedrock of all love. No one can love without making sacrifices for their beloved and it is the same with religion. The true believer is constantly making sacrifices for God and for their neighbour; the Christian realises that these sacrifices are the evidence that their lives are filled with love. You can see here the profound switch from the Old Testament approach with its emphasis on a more wrathful God to the New Testament way of looking at things which understands that God is pure love. This marks a significant growth in mankind’s comprehension of the nature of God. We can see this gradual growth and development of our understanding of God over many centuries as humanity moved from first worshiping earthly and inanimate objects through to believing in a multiplicity of Gods who lived in a spiritual realm.

Only after a long time did mankind come to appreciate the revelation to Abraham that there is only one God. We then made the highly significant move from believing that this one God was harsh and judging into the Christian dispensation where it is revealed to us that God is all love and that he is a Trinity of persons. Our desire to please God, as we have seen, changes our attitudes to God’s commands. No longer are they seen as a set of laws that a capricious God requires us to conform to. Rather they are seen as the best way to live out our human existence. We see God’s laws as life-enhancing and enriching. We see following them as the way to our true fulfilment rather than anything onerous or burdensome. I read a little phrase in a book a few days ago, 'To love the world is no big chore; it's that miserable person next door who is the problem.' All too often this is our difficulty. We have no trouble with love in the abstract; we often see ourselves as very open, tolerant and loving people. That is until we come across some actual real people, especially those who get on our nerves.

As we encounter this ‘miserable person next door’ we suddenly experience a problem. The way they speak and act annoys us deeply and soon enough our wonderful open and loving attitude comes to a full stop. The little irritations of everyday life can swiftly bring to an end our highest ambitions to live our lives in the way God wants. Often, we cannot explain just how another person irritates us. We do not understand what is happening, we simply experience an aversion to them. Something they do or say jars or annoys us and we end up very irritated. It then becomes impossible to show love to them. Some of the things that irritate us about others may have a cause and that cause might be because they don’t feel loved enough themselves. Maybe that’s why they irritate us; they might be somewhat inept in their personal relationships because they don't feel loved enough.

When we encounter such a person we often don’t react very well and it might also be this reaction that is making them feel unloved. One thing feeds on another and the more we react negatively to whatever it is they are doing leads them to behave in an ever more irritating way. The only thing to do in these circumstances is to stop in our tracks and to review our own actions. Then we need to try to act more positively towards them, even if we don’t feel that really mean it. We might be surprised how their behaviour changes as a result. It might be that what was previously a negative spiral now turns into something which is more positive.

The upshot might be that we start to see things in them that we like a lot better than those aspects of their character that caused us so much irritation to begin with. Beginning to realise that those things that irritate us in others might have its origins in our own behaviour may just be the clue we need to put these relationships back on track. The psychologists call this projection; it often happens that we see our own faults reflected in the life of other people. It is always then good when someone irritates you to take a good look at yourself in case the fault lies with you and not the other person. Showing Christian love might be our highest ambition but it may falter when we encounter actual living people. Christian love is absolutely useless unless it survives contact with the real world. One possibility when we find ourselves in such circumstances would be, before we do or say anything, to imagine ourselves sitting round that table of the Last Supper together with the Apostles listening to Jesus say the words we have just heard in today’s Gospel. That brief moment of meditation might be all we need to put us on the right track and help us to overcome our instinctive reactions and lead us to act towards whoever is in front of us in a truly Christian and loving way.
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