Steadfastness of Heart flowing from God’s Dwelling Within Us, Fifth Monday of Easter, May 19, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 19, 2014
Acts 14:5-18, Ps 115, Jn 14:21-26

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • On both Friday and Sunday, we pondered Jesus’ words that he was going to make a place for us in the Father’s House and come back to get us, so that where he is, we, too, may always be. Jesus was obviously speaking most of all about the reality of heaven where we hope, and he wants, us to abide forever. But just like Jesus indicates to us in his parables about the kingdom of God, that the kingdom  is both “now” and “not yet,” that we can experience now in embryonic form what will be fulfilled later, so here in this year we can anticipate the fundamental essence of heaven, which is abiding in loving communion with God. In today’s continuation of what Jesus already introduced for us on Friday and yesterday, he tells us that he and the Father want to “come to [us] and make [their] dwelling with [us].” Jesus wants to build his dwelling place on earth not just among us in Church tabernacles but within us by transforming us to be tabernacles. This is a mind-blowing reality. It’s challenging enough for us to ponder the mystery of the Incarnation with the Annunciation, but we all recognize that Mary is special, free from original sin, and it’s less of a spiritual stretch for us to grasp that God came to dwell within her for nine months, to live off of her physically who was living off of Him existentially and spiritually. But God wants to make us his holy dwelling place, his temple, his abode.
  • Jesus describes, today, that there are two essential criteria for that. First, is that there must be a communion of love, a union of wills. “Whoever loves me,” Jesus says, “will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” For God to be able to come to make his dwelling with him, we need to want union with him, and that union is a loving one of wills. Pope Benedict used to say that the fundamental mark of the friendship we’re supposed to have with God is idem velle, idem nolle, that we want the same things and reject the same things. Jesus is very clear today that “the one who loves me” is the one who “has my commandments and observes them,” and that “whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” We live in a day in which love is so often confused with feelings of warm concern or even emotional dependence on another, but love is fundamentally a thing of the will, involving choosing the other’s good, choosing to sacrifice oneself, one’s pleasures, even one’s life to please and help another. Jesus has that type of love for us and he summons to have that type of love for him. That’s a precondition for his being able to make his dwelling place within us, because if we’re not doing what pleases him, if we’re not “keeping his word” or “observing his commandments” we really don’t love him, we don’t want what pleases him, we don’t want a union of wills with him. At the dogmatic instead of personal level, if we’re not keeping his commandments, we’re not in the state of grace, and one of the consequences of that is that we cannot experience the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity which is a result of being in the state of sanctifying grace.
  • The second condition Jesus mentions is the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Holy Thursday discourse in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus will be talking about the Holy Spirit. We’ll hear his words more and more as we approach Pentecost in under three weeks. Today Jesus says, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” He’ll add to what the Holy Spirit will do in upcoming days. But it’s the Holy Spirit that prepares us to receive Him together with the Father and the Son. He will remind us of what Jesus told us — about God, about ourselves, about what we need to please God — and add to what Jesus indicated, by teaching us “everything,” because as Jesus said on Holy Thursday, he had so many other things to teach us but we couldn’t handle it then. It’s the Holy Spirit that seeks always to complete Jesus’ work. The Holy Spirit not only helps us to remember Jesus and all he taught and did for us, but he helps us to relate properly to the Father as beloved sons and daughters who cry out “Abba!” It’s the Holy Spirit that helps us to want to keep God’s word and assist us in fulfilling not only the individual commandments but the love that is at the root of all of the commandments. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Paraclete” or in our translation the “Advocate.” There’s something beautiful etymologically about that term. The Holy Spirit helps us to respond “ad” to our “vocation,” which is to be a dwelling place of God.
  • The type of transformation that the Holy Spirit wants to effectuate in us, the type of life of one who loves God the Father and God the Son by keeping his word and his commandments we see in today’s first reading in Saints Paul and Barnabas. They were men who were giving their whole lives to Jesus’ valedictory commandment to go to all nations, baptizing in the name of the Trinity, teaching them to carry out everything Jesus instructed, conscious that Jesus was with them always until the end of time (Mt 28:18-20). They were men who were filled with the Holy Spirit not only in their sharing the faith but in their perseverance in the faith. We talked on Saturday about the effort it would have taken just to get to Antioch in Pisidia to proclaim the Gospel, but after they were driven out of town, they went to Iconium, and after they were driven out there, they went to Lystra and Derbe, where we see them today. In his homily this morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis talked about their apostolic courage as a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit had given him a “firm heart” or better a “steadfast heart.” That’s a model, he says for us all. “We should ask for the grace to have a fixed heart, like Paul. So as not to complain about the persecution, he went in search to another city. He began to preach there, to heal the sick, realizing that that man had enough faith to be healed. Then, he needed to calm this excited people who wanted to make a sacrifice to him. Then, he had to proclaim that there is only one God, with their own cultural language. One thing after another … And this can only come from a steady heart.” Pope Francis then examined the source of that steadfastness. “Where was Paul ‘s heart that he was able to make so many changes in such a short time and meet these situations in an appropriate way?” It’s the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s heart, he dressed, “is fixed in the Holy Spirit” , this “gift that Jesus has sent us.” The Holy Spirit, “gives us strength, gives us this steadiness to be able to move forward in life in the midst of many events.”
  • The question for us is what type of heart we have. In response to the other Judas’ question in the Gospel why Jesus will reveal himself to those who keep his commandments but not to the secularized world, Jesus implies because they will not persevere in keeping his word which is a precondition for their being able to perceive God in his incarnate revelation in Jesus, his words and deeds. Those who are practical atheists living in the world, who live as if God doesn’t exist, who want to do their will instead of his, spread their opinions instead of his truth, they don’t have the type of heart required for the Holy Spirit to make them steadfast. Pope Francis said, “We can ask ourselves today: What kind of heart do we have? Is it a fickle heart which like a dancer, like a butterfly flits from one to another…always in motion? Is it a heart that is scarred by the vicissitudes of life, and is hiding and afraid to give witness to Jesus Christ? Is it a brave heart or a heart that has so much fear and is always trying to hide? What does our heart care for? What treasure does our heart custody? Is my heart fixed upon creatures, the problems that we all have ? Is my heart fixed upon everyday gods or is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?… The only one that gives firmness to our hearts is the Holy Spirit. It would do us good to think that we have this great gift that Jesus left us, the Spirit of fortitude, of counsel, who helps us to move forward in the midst, surrounded by every day trials.” 
  • It’s here at Mass that the Holy Spirit seeks to give us this type of heart, where he seeks to remind us of everything Jesus taught us in Sacred Scripture, where he wants to overshadow us like he overshadowed Mary so that we may receive within us in Holy Communion the same Jesus she conceived in her womb, where he seeks to strengthen us to “do this in memory” of Jesus and offer our whole life in union with his Word, his Commandment to love others in the same Eucharistic self-giving way with which he loved us. Let us pray today that just as the apostles who heard these words on Holy Thursday kept them, just like Saints Paul and Barnabas kept them, that we may be docile to the Holy Spirit’s help and keep them, so that Jesus with the Father and the Holy Spirit may come and make their dwelling within us and bring us more and more into that unending Communion in the eternal house of the Father where Jesus has gone to prepare for us.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ACTS 14:5-18

There was an attempt in Iconium
by both the Gentiles and the Jews,
together with their leaders,
to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas.
They realized it,
and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe
and to the surrounding countryside,
where they continued to proclaim the Good News.At Lystra there was a crippled man, lame from birth,
who had never walked.
He listened to Paul speaking, who looked intently at him,
saw that he had the faith to be healed,
and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.”
He jumped up and began to walk about.
When the crowds saw what Paul had done,
they cried out in Lycaonian,
“The gods have come down to us in human form.”
They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,”
because he was the chief speaker.
And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city,
brought oxen and garlands to the gates,
for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice.The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments
when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,
“Men, why are you doing this?
We are of the same nature as you, human beings.
We proclaim to you good news
that you should turn from these idols to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.
In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways;
yet, in bestowing his goodness,
he did not leave himself without witness,
for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons,
and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.”
Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds
from offering sacrifice to them.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 115:1-2, 3-4, 15-16

R. (1ab) Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us
but to your name give glory
because of your mercy, because of your truth.
Why should the pagans say,
“Where is their God?”
R. Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our God is in heaven;
whatever he wills, he does.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the handiwork of men.
R. Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
May you be blessed by the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
Heaven is the heaven of the LORD,
but the earth he has given to the children of men.
R. Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
JN 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit
whom the Father will send in my nameB
he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”