John 14; 15-21. Sixth Sunday in Easter. May 21st, 2017
“Beloved, 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, keeping your conscience clear.”
These words of St. Peter, written in the first century under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are a direct calling to each one of us. Each of us, as Catholic Christians is being called by the Holy Spirit to give a stronger witness to others of the hope that we hold in our hearts, for each one of us is to bring Jesus to the world. And do so, by Jesus living in us by the working of the Holy Spirit.
Christian hope is not a, “I hope So!,” or “We can only Hope!” Christian Hope is not wishful thinking; Christian Hope is a Person, a Divine Person—Jesus Christ. And Jesus is the hope that never disappoints.
Witnessing to Hope is a great challenge for us in our times, which because of an increasing hostility to the truths of the Gospel has created an environment devoid of any real authentic hope. In such an environment, and its trials and sufferings, we ourselves may even be struggling to maintain our own hope much less be a witness to hope for others. However, in today’s Gospel, we learn that the Holy Spirit will be with us to give us His help in all the little moments and in all the difficult moments that we are called to give faithful witness to Christ Who is our Hope, because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Certainly our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, understands each one of us intimately well. After all He knew us even before He knitted us while we were in our mother’s womb; He knows us better than we know our self. And so He knows our feeble human nature, how fickle can be our love and strong can be our fear. He understood that His own apostles would be scattered during His passion and death. He knew it would take time and His help for them to be able to be healed and to grow in their faith, hope (trust) and their love of Him in order that they could be His faithful witness, His faithful friends who would witness to Him by proclaiming His truth in its fullness, boldly and without fear, even unto death.
We too, like those first apostles, can be so afraid of giving witness to Jesus. We can be afraid what the truth may cost us, not only if we stand up for it, but the cost of living it out in our daily life by the self denial it entails. Jesus knows that we can be tempted to not give a reason for the hope that is within us, burying our head in the sand instead, and pretending that we can somehow manage to be faithful Catholics without fidelity to all of the teachings of the Church, which are the same as the truths of the Gospel. But not to proclaim hope is to lose hope!
Jesus today tells us that we will not be orphaned; He will not leave us alone. Through the Sacraments of the Church, He will be truly be with us even unto the end of the world. And even more, through those same Sacraments, He promises to send the Advocate, the Spirit of truth to us in order to help us, to strengthen our hope and love in Him, and to lead us to all truth, all in order to lead us to an deeper and intimate union with He who is the Truth—Jesus.
The Holy Spirit will lead us to this intimate loving union with Jesus by helping us to adore Jesus by offering ourselves totally and completely to Jesus, to trustingly give Jesus our everything with out fear. The Holy Spirit will then be our strength in order to be faithful witnesses to the ends of the earth, witnesses to the truth that sets mens free and gives them life and so gives them hope. We will bring the world hope because we will lead it to the One who is Hope Itself, Jesus. And when one Hopes in Jesus, one already begins to posses Jesus in whom He hopes.
Back in April of 2008 when He visited the U.S., Pope Emeritus Benedict during a homily at Yankee Stadium reminded us of the great responsibility we Catholics have to bear witness to hope, especially in our own country. His words bear repeating; Pope Emeritus Benedict said to us:
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works” (1 Pet 2:9). These words of the Apostle Peter do not simply remind us of the dignity, which is ours by God’s grace; they also challenge us to an ever-greater fidelity to the glorious inheritance, which we have received in Christ (cf. Eph 1:18). They challenge us to examine our consciences, to purify our hearts, to renew our baptismal commitment to reject Satan and all his empty promises. They challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope (cf. Rom 5:5) born of faith in God’s word, and trust in his promises."
Benedict here is telling us that to be faithful witnesses to Hope for our increasingly hopeless country and world entails many difficulties as we have said, but not just in the hostility we may face from others—the are other difficulties. To begin with, we have to do the difficult work of examining our conscience, particularly in the Sacrament of Penance. There, in the Tribunal of God’s Divine Mercy, honestly, humbly and on our knees confessing those areas of our lives where we have not been faithful and where we continue to not be faithful to our baptismal promises; in other words, all those way we have failed to love God by not following His Commandments. This hard work, and many times humiliating work, is the part of the very foundation of our ability to be able to give effective witness to our world to Christ.
Our witness is not and cannot be authentic if we fail to do this difficult work of repentance, of struggling to change ourselves for the better with the help of God’s grace and our own hard work. So often, we can tend to avoid trying to witness to our faith because we are ashamed of our sins. We can feel like hypocrites, for we ourselves have failed to live the Gospel so many times and in so many ways. Yet, the Sacrament of penance cleanses us from this fear and shame and gives us the grace to do better, to become better, more faithful, stronger and bolder followers of Christ; thus, giving witness to hope, not so much by what we say but more by how we live. Thus the sacrament of confession is the sacrament that leads us to Hope.
And so, rising from our knees in the Great Sacrament of the encounter with God’s forgiveness, we must run and fall on our knees in adoration and in silence before Hope Himself Who is truly present in the Holy Eucharist the most Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. This can be especially difficult because it demands that we enter into silence before the Lord, removing all distractions to alone with the one we love. Silencing all noise, the noise of sound and the noise of image, and seeing only the One we hope in.
The world, so distracted by loud noise and bright images, no longer sees Jesus, but we see Him through the eyes of faith in the Holy Eucharist. Seeing Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, that is with faith that He is really there, we realize that God continues to so love the World that He continues to send His Son into the world through the Holy Mass. The Holy Eucharist contains the fullness of this Love of the Father because it contains the fullness of the Son of the Father.
And so, at the Holy Mass God continues to offer to us everything He is and everything He has in the Holy Eucharist. Before such a great mystery of love, faith requires that we offer ourselves in return. In fact, only to the degree of love that we offer our hearts to the Father through the Son can our Reception of Jesus in Holy Communion bear fruit in our lives, and through our lives in the lives of others.
In Holy Communion, Jesus comes into our bodies and souls remaining with us Sacramentally for just a few brief minutes, but before He goes He desires to leave with us the Advocate the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will remain with us always if we open our heart to Him. The Holy Spirit will, if we let Him, transform us more and more into the image of Jesus by bringing us into a more complete union with Jesus and through Jesus union with the Father.
Through this union, Christ will be sanctified in our hearts, for we will be in Jesus and Jesus will be in us, And because Jesus is in the Father, the Father will be in us as well. We will live, truly live, because all Three Person of the Blessed Trinity will live in us and we in Him. God will be in us and we in God.
Strengthen by the Spirit of God, given to us in and through the Holy Eucharist our very lives of holiness, more than our words will be an gentle and reverent explanation to anyone who ask us for the reason for the hope that is in us. And when we are maligned by those who are convicted of their sinful life by our own life of good conduct, that is our lives of living the fullness of the truth of the Gospel in Christ, our conscious will be clear and they will be put to shame. And we will will cry out with joy, for it is better to suffer for doing Good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For we will be like Christ who though righteous, suffered for the sake of the unrighteous,. Like Him we will die to self and selfishness but we will be brought to life in the Spirit. And in our lives we will bring that Life to the world and so bring hope to the world for it will not longer be us who lives, but Jesus who lives in us. And the Father will continue to so love the world that He will Jesus into the world through us. Jesus, sent from the Father, and alive in us through the Sacraments of the Church, this, this is the Hope for which the world longs for us, for you and me to bring it.
Let us pray:
Come Holy Spirit; come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thy well beloved Spouse. (x3) Amen.