6th Sunday of Easter ~ 14 May 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; Responsorial: Psalm 66; II: I Peter 3: 15-18; Gospel: John 14: 15-21
We are reminded we are called to be an Easter people in which the joy, grace and power of the risen Christ dwells in our lives. It is six weeks since Easter. The celebration is, for most a memory tucked away under all that life has brought since then. But we are still called to celebrate this pinnacle of our faith, even as we approach the Solemnity of Christ’s Ascension and then the Day of Pentecost. It is the Spring time season of holy days and all the other celebrations of Mother’s Day [A very happy and blessed day to all the Mom’s who may read this!] , graduations and perhaps weddings. In other words this season of Easter and Spring time events of life bring us to trek upon the roads of life with all the busy beauty growing on about us. And these roads will inevitably bring us to holy Cross roads where we must choose which way to go. Will we seek Christ and the Kingdom of God? Or will the path of self and temporal pleasures be more alluring?
The coming next two Sundays will culminate the Easter season. And our Church, in the Holy Spirit will seek to bring our eyes, our focus on that which is eternal. We can hear the call to set our hearts on things above as we look to the Ascended Jesus. It is as we look to Christ we will also hear we are each called to be immersed (baptized) in the promised Holy Spirit. Each of us in our own distinct life are called, together to be empowered by the Holy Ghost to serve and proclaim Christ, King and Savior or our lives.
And, this Sixth Sunday of Easter our Bible readings would share with us the clear directions God’s love would call us to follow as we encounter those Cross roads of life. In so doing the Spirit of God can help us learn and experience the Presence and Promises of God.
St. Peter, in our epistle states: “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” What an amazing statement! As Christians we understand that it is the graces of God that would sanctify us. We recognize how God calls us to have places, holy, sanctified for prayer and worship. From the prayerful hermitages of monks and nuns to the great cathedrals,or our own parish we can see what these sanctified, consecrated places are meant to be. We can realize what it means to have a place for Jesus.
But the Holy Spirit is telling us, through the Apostle Peter, to sanctify Christ in our hearts! We are being told to consecrate, make holy, Jesus! In our hearts! We are being instructed to make a place, a sanctified, consecrated, holy dwelling place for Jesus in our hearts. We may pause and wonder, how can we consecrate God who is most holy? In our hearts, our lives? This brings us back to our Cross roads. It is, sadly very common and easy to see Jesus being profaned in the lives of humanity. Cursing that is now so popular and accepted expresses what is growing in hearts. As does, by holy contrast prayer and praise to God. Daily we chose the Cross roads we will take. Will I pray? Will I go to Mass? Will I take the time with Mary to pray my rosary? Or prayerfully listen to the wisdom of the saints? Will I seek to serve and see Jesus in others, however poor or unsuitable they may seem? Or will I turn and follow the road way of this world? Fueling anxiety, fear, doubts that God is Present and in control in my life? My parish? My family? Will I hitch a ride with the politics and agendas so fervent and so often shrouded in the flimsy gauze of pretended spirituality and faith? Will I yield to the despair of hate and judging as would pummel us in the news and social media? Or will I seek to sanctify Jesus in my heart, in my life?
Jesus in our Gospel, is instructing the disciples shortly before he goes to the Garden and his Passion. His Words are clear. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” Most Christians are familiar with these blessed words. It is rather easy to see the conditional process of which Christ might be speaking. If we love Jesus, then we will keep his commands and then God will send the Holy Spirit into our lives. But, as humans we often may be tempted to put the proverbial cart in front of the horse. How often do we believe, and act according to our premise of IF I KEEP God’s Commands I will prove MY LOVE and God the Father then will send the Holy Spirit? We make this promise a conditional statement of how to earn the love of God and the promise of the Advocate. As Catholics we believe and celebrate the graces of faith and works. They both are essential, and inseparable. But our works do not earn our faith. Both are graces and gifts flowing from God as we open hearts to our Lord.
This brings us back to our Cross roads and choosing to sanctify, or consecrate Jesus in our hearts. Are we choosing to make our hearts, our lives a place for Jesus? In our own rural, small town parish we are facing choices about this. Our parish mission, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Asti was discovered to have some serious structural problems with at least one of the great beams that support the distinct roof (designed from the wood and in the shape of a wine barrel). Care and maintenance of these places for Jesus and His people has always been a priority. But time, weather and hidden decay all have taken a toll. And it will take hard choices as to how this challenge will be addressed.
So it is with our hearts, our lives as a place for Jesus. We may faithfully work to be a place for Jesus in our hearts and homes. But in life there are times when weakness, decay may have set in. The damage from the storms of life are a part of life. They present us with Cross roads as to how we will care for and respond. It may be most sensible to simply accept the infamous bottom line of dollars and “sense” and eliminate the problem all together. Or it may be a time to build and grow, perhaps in ways unexpected and new.
And thus Jesus brings us back to the Cross roads of His Word. Instead of thinking the cart of obedience must go in front of the horse we may recognize God is realigning our priorities. Christ is saying IF we LOVE HIM THEN God will help, empower us for obeying the commands of love for God and others. It is as we choose to make a place, to sanctify Jesus in our hearts that our relationship with the Living Word of God, the Logos, with Jesus will grow stronger. The verb in the ancient Greek of the Gospel “to keep” God’s commandments may also be accurately translated as “Hold Fast”. As we make, sanctify, build a place for Jesus in our lives we will then grow holding fast onto our Savior and Risen Lord. We will love to hold fast the Living Word, Jesus.
Our life of faith brings us often to these Cross roads. The Holy Spirit would use the places to bring us to further make for Jesus a place in which to dwell and reign as Savior and Lord. And we will discover these places for Jesus in our hearts and the life of our families and Church.