Immersed in Christ: May 17, 2020
The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Joy and Peace
What gives me my greatest joy in life right now? What liberation, healing or empowerment in my life can I attribute to the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead?
Everything in the liturgy is speaking to us of joy. The Entrance Antiphon: “Speak out with a voice of joy….” The Opening Prayer: “God, help us to celebrate our joy….” The Responsorial (Psalm 66): “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Why? Because of the awesome power God has used for us; because by “the resurrection... the Lord has set his people free”; because at the preaching of the Good News “many possessed, paralyzed or lame were cured.”
The Gift of the Spirit
In Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17 the crown of conversion is the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Luke’s Gospel the Holy Spirit brings about the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb, and this gift distinguishes the baptism of John the Baptizer from the Baptism Jesus gives. In John’s Gospel Jesus declares that no one enters into the kingdom of heaven without it, the Spirit is the Father’s great gift to those who believe, and the gift of the Spirit is the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection. It empowers the Church to continue his mission and to forgive sins. In Acts the Spirit gives power to proclaim the Good News to the whole world and to bear witness to Jesus as prophets.
In Paul’s letters receiving the Spirit was proof of faith and was revealed in joy; a joy “in the Holy Spirit” that, together with hope, love and peace is a characteristic of the kingdom, even in time of persecution. To make his case against the legalists, Paul appeals to the Galatians’ experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. Clearly, a conscious, experienced joy in the Spirit is a constitutive element of true Christian life. It should lead us to sing, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” 1
Pledge of Life:
1 Peter 3:15-18 tells us, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” If we live as prophets — that is, in a way that does not make sense without the Gospel — then obviously we have set our hearts on something beyond what this world promises. When our lifestyle or behavior raises the question of what that is, we should be ready to answer. Not just with abstract truths or doctrines of faith, but in some way out of our experience. The joy of experiencing the Holy Spirit empowering us from within is such an experience.
Remember, St. Paul based his argument against legalism on the Galatians’ experience of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t argue to that experience; he argued from it (Galatians 3: 2-5). In the same way, we should be able to base our hope of resurrection on our experience of living here and now by the Spirit of God.
We are not speaking about strange and “mystical” experiences: overwhelming feelings and inexplicable sensations. No, we are talking about choices that we experience ourselves making, and making with confidence and courage, when no merely human knowledge or experience would justify them — choices based on faith; choices based on trust in God’s promises; choices that are clearly options to love God more than anything on this earth. These choices don’t necessarily give us feelings of absolute certitude, or of fearless confidence, or even of passionate devotion. It is just that the choices cannot be explained unless their foundation is a graced (divine) certitude, confidence and devotion — whether these are felt or present to us mostly by an aching awareness of their absence! We know we believe, trust and love because we find ourselves acting out of faith, hope and love. We experience the Holy Spirit as the “condition for the possibility” of the way we are choosing to live. And deep down, deeper than both feelings and conscious, rational thought, we know we are living in truth and love. We experience even more certitude when persecution, dryness and doubts take away all human motivation for living the Christian life. In the absence of the human we are confirmed in our experience of the divine.
“You know him…”
In John 14: 15-21 Jesus not only promises to send the Spirit into our hearts; he also tells us what the fruit of his presence is: “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you…. You will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.” This is the source of our joy.
He promises we will experience in some way all Three Persons: Father, Son and Spirit. How? By loving: “Those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” In the act of loving God we experience being loved. Those who choose to live in love will experience God loving in them. And they will join their voices to those who sing: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.”
Is it not true that I experience my faith, not just as an opinion, and not just as something I was taught, but as something I know— even when I feel doubts?
Let the Spirit move you to find your joy in loving. Consciously do everything you do out of love for God and people.
1 Luke 1:35; 3:16; John 3:5; 14:16; 20:19-23; Acts 1:8; 2:17-18; 10:47; 13:52; Romans 14:17; 15:13; Galatians 3:2-5; 5:22; 1Thessaloniians 1:6.