Not Rationing the Spirit but Letting Him Witness Through Us, 2nd Thursday of Easter, April 27, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
April 27, 2017
Acts 5:27-33, Ps 34, Jn 3:31-36

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • The Easter Season is meant to be a post-baptismal mystagogy, the period in which the Church helps the newly baptized — and those baptized many years before — enter into the reality of the mystery of Christ’s risen life received in the Sacraments, pondering his words, and living the truth so that all our works may be seen as done in God, as we heard earlier this week. Throughout this Second Week of Easter, we have been pondering the mystery of our baptismal sharing in Christ’s risen life through Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about spiritual rebirth. Tomorrow we will begin eight days of focus on the Eucharistic reality of the Christian life, our ability to receive Jesus’ risen Body and Blood each day. And all of these truths we’re able to see enfleshed by the members of the early Church in the readings from the Acts of the Apostles.
  • Today we get the concluding words of the chapter of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in which Jesus — or St. John, the text is a little ambiguous and scholars go back and forth about whether St. John is quoting Jesus or whether he is giving his own theological reflections on why Jesus said what he said — describes his own mission and the life of anyone born anew from above. St. Paul told us on Easter Sunday morning, as he told the Colossians, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Today Jesus describes this difference between living with Him risen from the dead or living according to the old Adam: “The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things,” Jesus says, “but the one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard.” Jesus testifies to what he has seen and heard and a Christian must be a witness to what he has seen and heard in his encounters with Christ in person, in prayer, in the Sacraments. Jesus describes that he came as light into the world but many preferred the darkness. “No one accepts his testimony,” Jesus says, referring in generality to the fact that most don’t seek the things that are above, most don’t leave the darkness to enter the light, most don’t allow Jesus to change their fundamental orientation at the root, most don’t really convert and continue to lift up their hearts to God. But, Jesus adds, “Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy for the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” We believe what Jesus says on the basis of our faith in God. Because we trust in God we trust in what he says and gives witness to. The one born from above allows the Holy Spirit to give witness within him not, putting up any resistance to what God is doing. The Holy Spirit is a witness just as much as the apostles to Jesus’ risen life and when we are reborn from him, we give witness together with him. We don’t ration the Holy Spirit’s work, and he helps us, as St. Paul described to the Galatians and the Romans, to “live by the Spirit,” which allows us to be “concerned with the things of the Spirit.”  And for that reason, Jesus says, such a person living by the Spirit is already living eternally because he is through the Spirit in union with Christ’s risen life: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” That’s the life that begins when we’re baptized with water, the Spirit and fire.
  • We see life according to these principles in the apostles in the first reading. They accepted Jesus’ testimony, they didn’t ration the gift of the Spirit, but with all boldness were giving witness with the Holy Spirit to what they had seen and heard. After the same members of the Sanhedrin who had had Jesus publicly tortured and executed were threatening them with the same fate had given them strict orders to stop teaching in Jesus’ name only to be met by their “fill[ing] Jerusalem with your teaching,” St. Peter and the Apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men.” They kept giving witness, undaunted because they knew that they were already experiencing eternal life and even should they be martyred, that wouldn’t be the end of their life but the passage to life with Jesus. That was the source of their boldness. They sought the things above, they spoke of heavenly things, they grasped that, just like Jesus’ testimony, not everyone would receive theirs, but to everyone who did, they testified that God is trustworthy and would have eternal life. They appeal to us to accept that testimony coming from God the Holy Spirit, to order our life to the things that are above and to fill New York and beyond with this teaching. That’s what Jesus, whose Risen Life we’re about to receive within in Holy Communion, wants to strengthen us, like he strengthened his first followers, to do.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 5:27-33

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2 AND 9, 17-18, 19-20

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 20:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord;
blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.