HOMILY EASTER SUNDAY 06 – A
Living in the Spirit
(Acts 8:5-8; 14-17; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21)
Although we are a few weeks away from the celebration of Pentecost, it is as if the liturgists who chose the readings could not wait. The reception of the Holy Spirit is front and center in today’s readings for the Sixth Sunday of the Easter season.
As such, we are invited to live in the Spirit, let that Spirit of the Risen Lord touch our lives to the core, and provide us with the ability to hope against hope.
In the first reading, we see how God uses the persecution that started after the death of Stephen, the first martyr, to spread the very faith the Jewish leaders were trying to destroy. Philip ends up in Samaria proclaiming Christ. That is one of the first things that would be expected of someone who is filled with the Spirit of the Risen Lord, to want to share that good news with everyone, which is what Philip does.
Significantly, there is a healing element to the presence of Philip as he shares the news of this new way of life brought about by the resurrection of Jesus and the Pentecost event. Though the healings may not be as dramatic in our times as they were then, certainly the power of the Spirit to heal especially broken relationships and divided communities, to bring peace where there is strife, to encourage and to empower people, is given to us today by baptism and faith in Jesus.
The second reading informs us that our personalities will be transformed and mellowed. There will be gentleness about us, and a spirit of reverence and respect for all others who differ from us. We will find within ourselves a new facility to forgive those who hurt us and do not understand us. We will even be able to suffer hardship and misunderstanding for the sake of the Gospel. Caring for others and the ability to share our lives with them, who we really are, as a way of building community, will be apparent. We will strive to be holy, blameless, doing only good, with a clear conscience, because the Spirit of the Risen Lord dwells within us.
St. Peter adds the admonition to be ready to account for the hope that is in us. Those words pose a challenge to us especially in this dark time of the pandemic when so many are facing drastic losses in their lives, the economy is tanking, major companies are laying off up to half of their employees, and fears of a recession or even depression loom on the horizon. Where do those words leave us?
Our hope is not wishful thinking, or even optimism. It is based on the facts of our faith in first of all the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That fact demonstrates God has the power to draw good out of even death. Ron Rolheiser OMI adds another reason – God’s inexhaustibility.
“Underneath and beneath, beneath us and beneath our universe, there is a well that nothing exhausts. And it is this which we so often forget or slim down to the limited size of our own hearts and imaginations: God is a prodigal God, almost unimaginable in the scope of physical creation, a God who has created and is still creating billions upon billions of universes. Moreover, this prodigal God, so beyond our imagination in creativity, is, as has been revealed to us by Jesus, equally unimaginable in patience and mercy. There is never an end to our number of chances. There is no limit to God’s patience. There is nothing that can ever exhaust the divine well. It’s never too late! God’s creativity and mercy are inexhaustible.”
To me, that is a source of our hope. We need to be open to how God waits to work through our faith and rediscovered human solidarity to find new ways to not just survive, but hopefully to arrive at a new place individually, as a nation, and globally in living on this planet.
In the end, according to the Gospel, our focus and priority will be to keep the commandments that Jesus gave us, which is to love God with our whole being, and to love all others as we love ourselves. It could not be put simpler than that. To do that is to walk with Jesus through each day of our lives, in communion with him, inspired by him, filled with his Spirit, and doing what he would do.
Someone who actually lived this way and exemplified many of these qualities was the late Edward Kimbley of Beauval, Saskatchewan. A humble Cree Métis elder and father of a large family, Edward worked at the Beauval Indian Residential High School as a janitor and watchman for 48 years. His quiet fatherly presence was a support to the students who could always turn to him for a kind word of encouragement or much needed wisdom. He attended mass every Sunday without fail and often on weekdays as well. After his retirement he took on the ministry of counting the collection, taking it to the store and getting a draft that he then put in the mail. When one parishioner suspected something was not right because the amount in the bulletin each week was always an even number, it was discovered that far from being dishonest, Edward was topping up the collection to make it easier to work with. He saw no need to go on pilgrimage each summer as so many others did, because he felt the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit was with him all the time. He was Beauval’s Philip and Stephen rolled into one. The dining room at the residence was full with people when he retired, and the church full to overflowing by mourners when he died, an example to all of a Christian life lived in the Spirit.
The Eucharist is our way of proclaiming Christ and sanctifying the Lord. We are filled with the Spirit and commissioned to go out as did Philip and Stephen, to spread the good news and even suffer for the sake of the Gospel.
So, as we come closer to the feast of Pentecost, let us also strive to live in the Spirit as did Edward Kimbley, and let the Spirit of the Risen Lord touch our lives to the core.