HOMILY EASTER SEASON WEEK 06 05 – Year I
Empowered to Evangelize
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps 47; Jn 16:20-23a)
For the fifth time this week, the same refrain begins the Gospel: Jesus knowing the time had come for him to depart from this world and return to the Father. Once again, all that transpires in the readings takes place within the context of the intimate love relationship between Jesus and the Father in the Spirit.
An added nuance this time is that the early days of the Church (the ascension of Jesus into heaven, Pentecost and first evangelization) are compared to childbirth. As it is love that leads to the birth of a child in a marriage, so too it is the love between the Father, the Son, the Spirit and the followers of Jesus that leads to the birth of the Church, but not without birth pangs. All of this is to take place within the context of prayer to the Holy Spirit, which is the one thing that the Father most certainly wants to give to those who ask anything of him.
In the first reading from Acts, Paul, having had a vision of Jesus, was mandated to teach the Word of God to the people and this he did, especially as we have seen in the synagogues and wherever people would listen. Eventually, he would be accused of leading people to worship in ways contrary to the Law.
Interestingly enough, in this present day, the Jews, according to one scholar, are more interested in studying the Talmud (a commentary on the Torah) and the Mishnah (a commentary on the commentary on the Torah) then the Torah itself, as well as the prophets, who are seen as somewhat pesky. This may in part perhaps shed some light on why they had such a hard time accepting Jesus as the Messiah, given that attention to the prophets was at the level of lip service for many.
Finally, Paul sets out on a missionary journey to Syria. It is striking that Aquilla and Priscilla accompany Paul on this journey, no small venture in itself. This teaming up of St. Paul with a married couple strikes me as a very noteworthy. In 1987, I teamed up with a married couple from Beauval, Ed and Angie Mihalicz, to form a diocesan renewal team called KRT (Keewatin Renewal Team).
For over three years, we crisscrossed the archdiocese, giving parish renewals, Christopher Leadership Courses, and Search weekends for youth, as well as classroom visits to the schools when possible.
We adapted Chuck Gallagher’s Parish Renewal Weekend into a five evening format that included lots of singing, fellowship, scripture proclamation, talks, focus questions and small group sharing, and finishing up with large group sharing. The response was almost overwhelming. One lady in particular told us that she was praying for something like this. Sometimes the sessions went on to 1 am in the morning. We were younger then, and a bit over-enthusiastic. The leadership courses saw some miracles, as extremely shy participants on Friday night were able to give a talk in church on Sunday. For those who were involved in the church, these sessions were good leadership training; for the un-churched, the sessions were a form of gentle evangelization, as they encountered Christ through this Christian leadership course. And the Search weekends gave the youth greater hope in the Church as we tried to meet their need for understanding, identity and meaning in their lives.
The Eucharist that we celebrate now is our going away gift from the Lord. May our celebration help to ground us more deeply in the love of Christ for us, and may we be empowered like St. Paul to evangelize others and spread the good news of God’s love in the Risen Lord.