Knowing the Spirit and Acting on his Gift of Courage, 7th Monday of Easter, May 29, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, Manhattan
Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
May 29, 2017
Acts 19:1-8, Ps 68, Jn 16:29-33


Today’s homily was not recorded. The following points were pondered: 

  • Today in the Gospel there’s a dramatic exchange, taken from the Last Supper, between Jesus and the apostles. Immediately before this scene, in what we heard on Saturday, Jesus had said that the hour was coming when he would no longer speak in figures of speech — parables — but would tell us clearly about the Father. He told them straight out that the Father loves them, that he had come from the Father into the world, and was about to leave the world to go back to the Father. That leads them to exclaim, in today’s continuation, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.” They imply that they had been waiting for Jesus’ clear and direct speech to believe and now that he was addressing them in this way they were convinced believers. Jesus, however, reminds them that faith has consequences with regard to the courage to live by faith. “Do you believe now?,” he retorts. “Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone.” Jesus’ words would be fulfilled within hours as everyone scattered from Gethsemane and only one of them was with Jesus on Calvary. Faith isn’t merely an acceptance of certain declarations as true; it’s a total trust given to a person on the basis of which one believes in what the person says and does. They didn’t yet have the courage in Jesus, in his coming from the Father and returning to the Father, in his carrying out the Father’s plan of love, to remain faithful under trial. And Jesus told them both what would happen as well as how they would have their faith challenged, that they would fail “so that you might have peace in me.” He wanted them to maintain their peace in the crucible, the way the Blessed Virgin Mary did at the foot of the Cross despite her tears. Jesus summed up his words saying, “In the world you will have trouble,” just like he was about to experience imminently, namely of all the trouble caused by sin, “but take courage, I have conquered the world.” These words were said before Jesus’ resurrection, because he had already conquered the world in his incarnation, in the plan he was carrying out. The resurrection was the dramatic public sign of that victory that Jesus had already been achieving. The source of our courage is Jesus’ triumph, and that triumph was already being accomplished even as it seemed all was being lost. We need to believe in that triumph especially when we have trouble. Just like the apostles needed to hear Jesus’ words, “Take courage, I have overcome the world!,” when they saw him on Calvary, so we need to take courage when we see the places where the Church is being persecuted, when we see people wandering away from prayer and the Sacraments, when we see things that in the eyes of the world are simply disheartening. Jesus wants us to take courage because he in fact is triumphing, seeking to bring good out of evil, victory out of defeat.
  • We know that the apostles left the Upper Room that night and weren’t courageous. Rather than remaining in his peace, they scattered. They weren’t focused on Jesus’ conquering the world but on how the world seemed to be conquering him. But as we know, 53 days later they would leave that same Upper Room and fearlessly proclaim Jesus eternal victory. The change happened through the gift Jesus promised the Father and he would send them, the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is the Gift of Courage, which helps us to remain faithful when fearful, which strengthens us to do what God is asking of us despite our human revulsion of suffering and pain. We pray in the Veni Creator Spiritus that we sing throughout this Decenarium, “Virtute firmans perpeti,” “strengthen us with your perpetual power,” and that’s precisely what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in us. To fill us with the courage we need to believe and to live by that believe on sunny and stormy days.
  • In the first reading, there’s the famous passage about the disciples in Ephesus who had been baptized by John and seeking to walk in the way announced by Jesus but who didn’t know that there was a Holy Spirit. They had been baptized as a sign of repentance but had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. There are still many who merely know about the Holy Spirit rather than really know him and know his power. These days of prayer in anticipation of Pentecost are an occasion for us to grow in this awareness and docility. This is what strengthened Paul to preach in the way that he did despite all that he would have to suffer for doing us. This is what will help us get through each day as well. We need to get to know the Holy Spirit in a particular way during this Year of Mercy as the one sent by the Father “for the forgiveness of sins,” as the priest prays in absolution. We need to get to know him in our prayer, because we do not know how to pray as we ought. We need to get to know him in our moral life, living according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh. We need to get to know him in our preaching, giving witness with him to everything Christ said and did and says still and does. We need to become, in short, by his power a temple of the Holy Spirit.
  • Today as we come forward to receive Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask for the grace to act on his “talking plainly,” to believe even and especially when it’s tough, to find our peace in me even in the midst of whatever difficulties we will face today or tomorrow, and to be filled we joy not only that he has conquered the world but that by grace we are the disciples of that Conquerer who did all of that, and all of this, for us! We ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit to make us fitting temples of God’s holy, saving presence.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 19:1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth,
Paul traveled through the interior of the country
and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples.
He said to them,
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”
They answered him,
“We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
He said, “How were you baptized?”
They replied, “With the baptism of John.”
Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance,
telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him,
that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this,
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul laid his hands on them,
the Holy Spirit came upon them,
and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Altogether there were about twelve men.He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly
with persuasive arguments about the Kingdom of God.

Responsorial Psalm PS 68:2-3AB, 4-5ACD, 6-7AB

R. (33a) Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
R. Alleluia.
God arises; his enemies are scattered,
and those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so are they driven;
as wax melts before the fire.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
R. Alleluia.
But the just rejoice and exult before God;
they are glad and rejoice.
Sing to God, chant praise to his name;
whose name is the LORD.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
R. Alleluia.
The father of orphans and the defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia COL 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of the God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 16:29-33

The disciples said to Jesus,
“Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.
Now we realize that you know everything
and that you do not need to have anyone question you.
Because of this we believe that you came from God.”
Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”