HOMILY EASTER SEASON WEEK 06 03 – Year I
Grounded in Love; Evangelizing with Faith
(Acts 17:15, 22-18.1; Ps 148; Jn 16:12-15)
Did anything about the Gospel proclamation today strike you as unusual?
For the third time this week, the gospel begins with the statement: “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart form this world and go to the Father.” That line, of course, is taken from the first verse of Chapter 13, in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. It is inserted here by the liturgists without explanation, and without apology. Obviously, they were trying to underline something important, to the point of over-stating their case.
What they are underlying is the close, intimate, loving relationship Jesus had with the Father, which coloured everything Jesus did. In fact, Jesus did nothing on his own. Everything he said and did he had received from the Father.
We are invited to do the same, through him. Grounded in love, we are to evangelize with faith. All that we do and say in ministry should come from Jesus, and through him, from the Father. And today, another level is added – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit declares to us all that it has received from Jesus, who has received it from the Father. So, we see that the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit form one unity, one intimate communion, one close loving relationship. In that sense, God is truly family, relationship, intimacy, oneness in love. We are invited into that relationship by our faith in the Lord Jesus, and our love for all of humanity.
In the first reading, we see Paul who essentially fell in love with Jesus on the road to Damascus, an experience that transformed his whole belief system and forever changed his life. Here he is evangelizing the Athenians, and in doing so, serves as a model for us. First, he carefully observes their gods as well as studies their poets. Then he puts into practice a sound pastoral principle – accept people where they are at and take them a step further.
Thus, Paul finds a point of entry from within the Athenean belief system, the unknown god, whom he identifies as the God of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Paul wastes no time in getting to the heart of the Christian message, which is repentance for mistaken belief so as to receive the forgiveness of God through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The credibility of his message comes from the fact that the Father has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. That of course led to some scoffing, but others coming to believe. Paul was not deterred by lack of results – he just kept on trying, which we must do as well.
When I think of Paul’s methodology, I am reminded of the Face to Face retreats started by a young Catholic lay person from St. Walburg, Sask., Kevin Yasinski. Challenged by John Paul II at the World Youth Days in Toronto, he returned and put his skills of preaching and music together into a short weekend retreat. The retreat consists of talks, contemporary Christian music and singing, reconciliation, adoration and Sunday Eucharist. The retreat targets youth from the ages of 16 – 24 roughly, probably the most challenging group to work with in the Church today. The retreat starts at noon on Saturday with singing and a talk, then right away, without apology, turns into a penitential service and confessions with about six priests on hand which finishes with supper. After more talks and singing, the evening closes with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which at one point is carried throughout the crowd of usually over 200 youth spread out on the floor.
If the pastor is willing, they take over the music and roles in the Sunday Eucharist. The retreat then closes in the early afternoon with another talk and more singing. What is striking is that participants will attend many of these retreats, helping out in any way they can, and forming a nucleus of seasoned retreatants who help to carry the enthusiasm of each retreat into the next one. What is also striking is the early focus on repentance, forgiveness and healing, with peer counselling and peer prayer teams. I cannot help but think that St. Paul would have fit right in with these retreats.
So, as we celebrate the Eucharist today, let us pray we will be grounded in the love of the Father made present to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and that like St. Paul, we might be able to more effectively evangelize our culture and our world.