Homily for May 22, IV Sunday after Easter (1962 missal)
In just three weeks, we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, and the liturgy is starting to prepare us.
As becomes clear in the readings today, we are incomplete as Christians without the Holy Spirit. We can see this from the apostles’ behavior. Even at the end of the Lord’s public life, they do not understand everything. We could almost say that they don’t understand anything. They still expect Him to inaugurate a worldly kingdom. They are sad that Jesus is leaving, even though that is the way He will save us and send us the Spirit. They have not grasped that it is God’s plan for Jesus to die and rise from the dead, and they are slow to believe in the resurrection, even when He appears to them and eats with them.
Jesus knows that they are not spiritually mature, and that they cannot yet bear everything He has to tell them. He has brought them along the road to being true apostles as far as the Father has willed, and the rest of the way they will be guided by the Holy Spirit. He will bring them to “all truth”. There will be no break in continuity;. Christ already told the apostles that He only does and says what He has learned from the Father. Now, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit in turn will do the same, speaking what He has heard and passing on what comes from Christ. There is no division or contradiction in the Trinity, as we are reminded in the priest’s secret prayer today which says that by participating in the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – we partake in the One Supreme Godhead. Both the Son and the Spirit proceed from the Father; and as St James tells us in the epistle, every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.
At Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit which happened long ago, but each time we celebrate Pentecost we relive that first coming with the Apostles, and have the opportunity to strengthen our own relationship with Him. The Paraclete is with us always, guiding us and teaching us through the Scriptures, through the Magisterium, and through our own experience of God in prayer and in the world around us. The Spirit is not visible, as Jesus was during His time on earth, so we have to be particularly attentive. St James says we need to be swift to listen and to receive the “ingrafted Word which can save our souls.” He says we should do this especially when we are moved to act by anger, although the same could be said of any strong passion. When we let ourselves be carried away by our feelings, we can easily act in a way not in agreement with our Christian vocation.
As we approach Pentecost, let us examine our lives to see where we most need the Holy Spirit’s help to be more Christlike, and let us begin to renew our attitude of openness and obedience to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. May we know and live the one, unchanging Truth, so that – in the words of the Collect prayer – “amid the changes of the world, our hearts may be there fixed where true joys are to be found.”