We are close to the end of the Easter season, yet the gospel
finds us sitting with Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. He
speaking his, "Last Discourse" to them. What he says before he died
is meant to sustain them. He promises that when he is no longer with
them the Father will send the Holy Spirit in his name. The gift of
the Spirit is the act that initiates and forms the church.
Thereafter, Christ will be present to them in and through the
In the Book of Revelation the "new Jerusalem" is a symbol for the
church. We don’t have to wait till the next life to be citizens of
the "holy city Jerusalem." Through our baptism we are already part
of the new heaven and new earth. As members of the new Jerusalem we
await the final times when all creation will be restored and all
people will be made members of the holy city. It will be a city of
safety where all will be welcome; where God will be at home with us
and we with God and one another.
People living in large cities can be the loneliest people. So
many people; so many casual encounters leading nowhere. Our modern
human condition can be isolated or, as Henry David Thoreau wrote,
"Most men [sic] lead lives of quiet desperation." Contrast that
experience with the promise Revelation offers. The author and
visionary gives us hope that one day we will be permanent citizens
in the holy city Jerusalem and we will live together in the light of
God’s glory. "The glory of the Lord gave it light and its lamp was
Our gospel makes a similar promise, that believers will dwell in
a permanent home with Christ and the Father. God will send the Holy
Spirit to stay with us and deepen and sustain the memory of Christ
in us. Our passage today is called, "the Farewell Discourse." The
title alone has poignant undertones. Goodbyes with someone we have
loved are never easy. Permanent goodbyes, which come with death, are
the most difficult of all. What will we do? How will we carry on
after a death, especially when the person who has died has been life
itself for us? Isn’t that what the disciples were feeling as they
heard Jesus’ words and took in their meaning?
Jesus is not insensitive to their fears and uncertainty, so he
promises to leave them help. It is a help which all of us need as we
await the fulfillment of the heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus promises the
Advocate will come. So, not to diminish the sense of loss the
disciples will feel when Jesus leaves them, the Advocate will
continue his presence among them. They will grieve his loss, but the
Advocate will sustain them.
What will bring peace to the disciples upon Jesus’ death? Their
loss will be enormous. How will they come to know the peace Jesus
tells them he is leaving them? Through the Advocate they will
experience the very presence of God. That is how they will have
peace – with and in God there is peace.
Knowing God is with us in all circumstances enables us to put our
lives into God’s hands and receive the grace we need for our
journey. Jesus tells the disciples, "Do not let your hearts be
troubled or afraid." The Spirit in our midst continues to teach us
so that we need not be anxious – "troubled or afraid." In John,
Jesus does not endure the agony in the Garden. That is because Jesus
has the Advocate – the Spirit – instilling trust that God is with
him and will never abandon him. He promises that same Spirit to his
disciples as he departs. The Spirit will restore Jesus’ presence to
the bereft, grieving disciples.
Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come and "teach you
everything and remind you of all that I told you." This "teacher"
will stay with us and when we are in need will "teach... and remind
us" of Jesus. The Spirit is the reminder of Christ’s presence in our
midst. But not just a "head reminder," like remembering someone from
our childhood – warm and fuzzy, but of no practical use now.
Instead, thanks to the Spirit, our memory of Jesus is alive and
reflected in our thoughts and actions. We can say we love Jesus, but
if that love is not shown by concrete actions, it is just a
sentimental expression with no real consequences in our lives.
Jesus and the Father come to dwell in those who keep Jesus’ word.
In addition, just as the Father has sent Jesus to us, so the Father
sends the Spirit who stirs up the mission of Jesus and sends us to
do as he did: preach and heal in his name. The Spirit nurtures love
in us and, through the wisdom the Spirit gives, we learn concrete
ways to show that love. The Spirit, Jesus says, will remind us of
him. This will have concrete consequences as we bear witness to the
Word of God.
Jesus offers assurance to his disciples. How will they, who have
been so dependent on him, carry out his mandate of love? He is
leaving, but he tells them, "I am going away and I will come back to
you." He will dwell with his followers, even before he returns at
the end of time. Meanwhile, they will live with him, awaiting his
return and following his word.
Some Christians expect and look for Jesus’ imminent return – the
Second Coming. But each time we encounter the Word, we meet Christ.
Then, through the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand who Jesus
is for us today, what it means to be his follower and what he
expects and helps us do in his name.
At this Eucharist we, like those disciples, are at table with the
Lord. Here we break the bread and share the cup, just as the first
community of believers did. Here the risen Christ tells us that if
we love him we will keep his word in our minds, hearts, and actions.
Christ is not with us as he was with his early disciples, but he is
with us in a new way, a new presence.
NOTE: Some biblical readers say they are uncomfortable with the
exclusive masculine language used for God. Jesus isn’t pointing to
the gender of God by his use of "Father." Rather, he is drawing out
the relationship of mutual love believers now have with God through
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
|"A genuine spirituality for the
laity...would seem at first to be the opposite of what
the classical spiritual writers call the ‘conversion to
God’. Our times call for a ‘conversion to the world’.
Too many people like to shy away from the world when
they become reconverted to God. Too often they want to
love God away from the stock exchange, courts of
justice, factories, offices, or marts of trade."
—Dennis Geaney, O.S.A.
quoted in "Initiatives," May, 1998
"May God have pity on us and bless
us; may God’s face shine upon us."
Psalm 67: 2
There is a relatively new blog produced by the
USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development that I
would like to recommend. It is called, "To Go Forth" and is inspired
by Pope Francis. Each post is written by different people working in
this field. The website is:
In this Year of Mercy, I find myself referring
back to their 12/1/2015 posting called "5 Ways to Spiritually
Prepare Yourself to Live Mercy in the Jubilee Year." Written by Jill
Rauh, Assistant Director of Education and Outreach for this
department, she gives 5 wonderful ways to enhance our spiritual
journey. Because of space considerations for this column, I have
abbreviated her suggestions a bit.
"1. Pray for awareness of God in your own life.
Where is God’s grace present in your daily life. . .communities?
Next, pray for awareness of how you are in need of God’s love and
mercy. Where is there brokenness in your relationship with yourself,
God, other people, and creation?
2. Pray with the Gospel. Mercy, Pope Francis says,
is "the beating heart of the Gospel." Prayerfully read these
parables devoted to mercy: the lost sheep (Lk. 15:1-7), the lost
coin (Lk. 15:8-10), and the lost son (Lk. 15:9-32). Consider: What
do these parables reveal about the Father’s attitude towards those
who are lost?. . .How does it feel to be found or forgiven?. . .How
does the Father extend mercy to the one who is lost? How have you
practiced mercy towards those on the periphery? Open yourself to
what God may be saying to you through these passages.
3. Encounter. We open ourselves to the Father’s
mercy, Pope Francis writes, when we look "sincerely" into the eyes
of our brothers and sisters—including those "who are denied their
dignity." Who are you called to encounter? Perhaps it is an
estranged family member or neighbor, or someone of a different
culture, religion, socioeconomic status, or political viewpoint. Ask
the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart to be open, your ears to
listen, and your eyes to adopt Jesus’ gaze towards the "other."
4. Prepare to be merciful. Consider the spiritual
works of mercy (counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant,
admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear
patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the
dead), and the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry, give drink
to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the
sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead). Which of each do you
find easiest? Which do you find more difficult? Where do you need to
5. We’re in it together. Individual acts are
important, and our collective actions and decisions help create
spaces for grace—or structures of sin. As a society, and in our laws
and policies, where do we practice mercy? Where do we fail to extend
mercy? In our families, parishes, schools, neighborhoods, towns,
nation and world, to whom do we extend mercy? From whom do we
withhold it? How does this help or hurt all of us?"
Be merciful as God is merciful.
Coordinator of Social
Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.
Mini-reflections on the
Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith
Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish
bulletins people take home.
SUNDAY OF EASTER, -C- MAY 1, 2016
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14:
From today’s Gospel reading
said to the disciples:
Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
the Father will send in my name,
teach you everything
remind you of all that I told you.
Jesus and the Father come to dwell in those who keep Jesus’ word.
The Father sends the Spirit who stirs up the mission of Jesus and
sends us to do as he did: preach and heal in his name. The Spirit
nurtures love in us and, through the wisdom the Spirit gives, we
learn concrete ways to show that love.
So we ask ourselves:
- What gifts have we received from the Spirit that we can put
to the service of Jesus?
- Are there gifts we need from the Spirit this coming
Pentecost to enable us to live Jesus’ life more faithfully in
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really be
mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Leslie Warren # 0487180 (On death row since 10/6/95)
- Darrell Strickland #0393145 (10/27/95)
- Jerry Dale Hill #0511057 (10/31/95)
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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