Easter VI (May 14) Sunday (8-minute homily in one page) L/23
Theme: Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to his apostles Today’s readings explain Who the Holy Spirit is, what His roles are, and how we can experience Him in our daily lives.
Homily starter anecdote: # 1: The Winners: Up until 2015, only 13 horses had won the coveted Triple Crown in Thoroughbred racing in the U.S.in 100 years. The last two winners were the “American Pharoah” (2015) and “Justify” (2018). They were 3-year-old horses which won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. What is it that makes some horses winning thoroughbreds? They had more speed, strength and stamina than other horses from their own inner capacity and from their inherited gene structure, training by expert trainers, and skillful jockeys to activate and develop their inner powers. We Christians have the stamina given by the Holy Spirit and training by parents, teachers and well-wishers. The question is whether or not we use all this to conquer temptations, avoid sin and practice virtues.
Scripture lesson summarized: The first reading describes how the Holy Spirit helped Philip, the Deacon, to preach powerfully and convert the Samaritans in large numbers and how the Holy Spirit helped Peter and John, by giving them a fresh anointing.
In the second reading, St. Peter shows us that Holy Spirit makes it possible for us believers to live God-fearing lives tin the midst of opposition and persecution.
Today’s Gospel, taken from the “Last Supper Discourse,” describes the gift of the Holy Spirit which Jesus is going to give his disciples who obey his commandment of love. Thus, the faithful believers will have the indwelling of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in their souls.
Role of the Holy Spirit: As the Divine Advocate 1) The Holy Spirit will instruct us in Jesus’ doctrines and illumine our minds to receive deeper knowledge of our Faith.
2) The Divine Advocate will enable us to defend our Faith powerfully when needed.
3) He will guide us in the proper practice of true Christian love by enabling us to recognize Jesus in the in the poor, in the sick, in the homeless, in the marginalized, in the outcast, in the drug addicts, and even in the criminals (“I was in prison…”), and so to become agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken and divided world.
Life message: 1) We need to welcome the Holy Spirit, allow Him to act in us and seek His help every day for our steady growth in spiritual life:
a) To conquer temptations from our habitual sins and to avoid the occasions of sins.
b) To remove the blocks caused by our addictions, evil habits, and various forms of abuse which we suffered in our early life, preventing our spiritual growth.
c) To discern and recognize the presence of Jesus in all the people we meet during the day and to do them humble, loving service.
d) To become agents of reconciliation and healing to others in our family and this community, by asking forgiveness from others we have offended, and graciously granting forgiveness to others who continue to hurt our feelings and ill-treat us.
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: The Winners: Up until 1987, only eleven horses had won the coveted Triple Crown in Thoroughbred racing. What is it that makes some horses winning thoroughbreds? Why is it that some horses have more speed, strength and stamina than other horses? Essentially, of course, these traits have to come from within the horses themselves: from their own inner capacity and from their inherited gene structure. Still, it seems that they also need help from outside. To become champions, they need the help of expert trainers and skillful jockeys to activate and develop their inner powers. — It is the same with us. Born human, we have within us capacities to love, learn, choose, work, and so on. But we need the help of parents, teachers and friends to activate and develop these capacities so that we can reach our full human potential. That is why we need the Holy Spirit and why Jesus promised to ask the Father to send Him to us: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always; to remain with you and be within you.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds)
EASTER VI [A] (May 14): Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, I Pt 3:15-18, Jn 14:15-21
# 2: “I would obey the Commandments of God.” When Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United States, one of the more vivid moments in the campaign passed by almost unnoticed. One Sunday morning, candidate Carter had been worshipping at the Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. When the service was over, he exited the Church into the swarm of press encamped on the Church’s front lawn. Cameras whirring, video lights glaring, microphones thrust forward, the media mavens moved in for interviews, pushing themselves to think of clever questions to ask a Presidential candidate on the way out of a Southern Baptist Church. Suddenly, a reporter, probably with a stroke of luck, shouted out a question that genuinely mattered: “Mr. Carter, suppose when you are President, you get into a situation where the laws of the United States are in conflict with what you understand to be the will of God. Which will you follow, the laws of the state or the commandments of God?” Carter stopped, looked up, perhaps with the Spirit gently whispering the lyrics of the Gospel into his ears, he turned toward the reporter and replied, “I would obey the commandments of God.” Alert aides, alarmed by this candor and unnerved by their candidate’s near-treasonous remark, hurriedly whisked him away from the press and into a waiting car. — Carter the politician should have avoided the question, or hewed closely to the law of the land, but Carter the Christian was open to the Holy Spirit Who encouraged him to give an honest answer.
# 3: A multimillion-dollar airplane, running out of fuel: In 1991 an Air Canada flight ran into big trouble. Passengers were enjoying an in-flight movie on the Boeing 767 when the jumbo jet’s massive engines abruptly stopped. At first only those without earphones on noticed anything. However, soon it was apparent the jet was in trouble. The pilot came on the speaker system and announced that Flight 143 would be making an emergency landing in a nearby aerodrome. The 69 people on board were trapped in an agonizingly slow but inescapable descent to earth. For several minutes a desperate silence hung over the cabin. Then fear gave way to screams of anxiety as the landing neared. All the latest technology could not keep the jumbo jet in the air. What had happened was this. The electronic digital fuel gauge was out of order. So, the flight crew had depended on the figures given them by the refueling crew before takeoff. But someone on the refueling crew had confused pounds with kilograms. Therefore, eight hundred miles short of its destination, that mighty jet simply ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing. Fortunately, no one was injured. — A multimillion-dollar airplane, headed in the right direction, but running out of fuel: that’s what’s happening to a lot of people today. They have everything in life going for them (e.g., a new car, a wonderful home, a good education, a good job), and one day they wake up out of fuel. At the center of their lives there is emptiness. They don’t know why they are living. There is nothing outside of themselves to live for. Don’t let that happen to you. Jesus tells us that the power for successful living comes from God. It is the promised gift that Jesus offers us, saying, “Peace be with you! My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27a), and “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (Jn 14:1)
Introduction: Today’s Gospel Reading continues the Farewell Discourse of Jesus, recorded by St. John. This reading is ideally situated in the Liturgical Year to anticipate the coming feasts of Ascension and Pentecost. We hear of Jesus’ immanent departure and the promise that he will ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit. The Easter Liturgy makes us feel both the intense, saving initiative of our loving God, and the deep demands He makes of us as “resurrection people.” It also reminds us that to meet these demands we need the inner strength of the promised, coming Holy Spirit. He comes as our Advocate and Counselor Who will gently indicate to us the way we should go, point out the “potholes,” (bad habits), we need to repair, and reveal our relationships in need of further inspection or care. Hence, from Easter to Pentecost, our readings have been focusing our attention on the promises of Jesus to his disciples, especially the promise of the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus will ask the Father to send, and on the results of His coming, shown in the early apostolic preaching of the Good News of salvation. Today’s readings provide answers to puzzling questions about Who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and how we experience Him in our daily lives. Today’s first and second readings were chosen to help us prepare for the soon-to-be-celebrated feast of Pentecost. They show us how the Spirit worked in the everyday activities of Jesus’ first followers.
The first reading describes the success of Philip, one of the first Seven Deacons, among the despised Samaritans and explains how the converted Samaritans received their first anointing of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands by the apostles Peter and John. According to today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 66), the Spirit, Who continues to do “the works of God, His tremendous deeds among the children of Adam,” causes believers in every age and place to experience personally the same marvelous acts of Divine liberation. The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 33), “Lord let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You,” is meant to be our safety-line attaching us to Jesus as we follow Him up Calvary and into Heaven.
In the second reading, Peter shows how the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us believers to live God-fearing lives in the midst of opposition and persecution. Today’s Gospel, taken from the “Last Supper Discourse,” describes the gift Jesus will ask the Father to send, the Holy Spirit, Who will live as the Paraclete, the Divine Advocate, and Counselor, in those who obey Jesus’ commandments, especially the commandment of love. At this “Last Supper,” Jesus was preparing His disciples for the day when He would no longer be with them physically. So, Jesus promised to ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon the Church. The Gospel reminds us that the Holy Spirit causes Jesus to be truly present in the Church. The risen Jesus’ continued presence in us through the Holy Spirit gives meaning and purpose to all we are and all we do in Jesus’ Name. The Spirit reveals to us what God is really like by empowering us to practice mutual love and by providing us with trustworthy guidance. Dwelling within us, the Holy Spirit enables us to manifest our love for God by observing the commandments of Jesus, especially the commandment of love. This commandment includes commands to recognize Jesus in the neediest, in the poor, in the sick, in the marginalized, and even in the criminal (“I was in prison…”), and to be agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken and divided world.
The first reading (Acts 8:5-8) explained: Here, the success of Philip, one of the first Seven Deacons, among the despised Samaritans is described. Owing to the vigorous persecution which began in Jerusalem after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the disciples had been dispersed. Philip turned the dispersal into an opportunity to preach the Gospel message by taking it to Samaria. Although the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, Philip followed the assignment Jesus gave the apostles in chapter 1 of Acts: “You are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes even to the ends of the earth.” The Apostles Peter and John were then sent by the Apostles in the Church in Jerusalem, to Samaria so that new community could meet people who had experienced the risen Jesus. The early Church believed that that no Christian community could exist without a relationship with someone who had experienced the risen Jesus. By calling down the Spirit upon the newly converted Samaritans, Peter and John brought them into fellowship with the whole Christian community, thus healing the 500-year Samaritan schism. We see from this event that the Holy Spirit operates only where there is communion with the apostles who, as “witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection,” certify the risen One’s continued activity on earth. Through the imposition of hands by the successors of the Apostles (our bishops), we also receive the Holy Spirit. We are empowered to profess our Faith boldly, to bear witness to the Truth of the Lord, and to stand for what is right and good. We receive the Spirit’s consolation in our difficulties.
The second reading (I Pt 3:15-18) explained: This portion of Peter’s First letter to the Church explains how the Holy Spirit makes possible God-fearing lives in the midst of opposition and persecution. Peter warns that God-fearing Christians shouldn’t be surprised by angry outbursts of resentment and militant confrontation from those around them. He clearly encourages the persecuted Christians to keep to the moral high ground no matter how much they’re mistreated.If we are willing to suffer for Christ and with Christ, God will see us through and will vindicate us. Meanwhile, we have the consolation of the Holy Spirit Who lives in our hearts and Who raised Christ from death. However, those who refuse to die and rise with Jesus actually prevent the Spirit from working in and through them. Peter also advises the newly baptized in the Church that Jesus must be so much a part of their lives that His dying and rising come through even in the way they respond to questions about their Faith: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope but do it with gentleness and reverence. “
Gospel exegesis: The context: Jesus’ promise to his disciples of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21), is part of the long “Farewell Discourse” near the end of John’s Gospel. Jesus made this farewell to his disciples at their Last Supper, just prior to his arrest, crucifixion, death, and Resurrection. This long discourse is a unique summary of the mystery of the Incarnation and the role of the Holy Spirit. God’s promise of the Holy Spirit should not have been a mystery to the followers of Jesus who knew the Holy Scriptures. The origin of this promise can be traced to the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the days of the prophets, God had promised to make a new Covenant [Jer 31:31] with His people. He had promised to put His law within His people, writing it on their hearts, that He might be their God and they might be His people [Jer 31:33]. He had also promised to put a new spirit within His people, to remove their heart of stone and to give them a heart of flesh [Ez 11:19, 18:31, 36:26]. And finally, God had promised to put His Spirit within His people to enable them to follow His statutes and be careful to observe His ordinances [Ez 36:27]. Paul tells us that this promise has been fulfilled: “Do you not know that you are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” [1 Cor 3:16].
The Jewish concept of Spirit: In Hebrew, the word for spirit is ruach ( ) – in Greek, pneuma ( ); in Latin, spiritus – all of which suggest breathing. The idea is that when a person is breathing, he is alive. It is from this notion that the idea of an animating, life-giving, intelligent, and active force comes. The word (in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin), thus meant “breath”, “life” and “spirit.” The Jewish tradition taught that when the Messiah came, God’s very own Life (Breath, Spirit) would be poured out upon all the faithful believers.
The promise of the Paraclete– the Advocate, Comforter, Helper, or Counselor: To Jesus, real love is something difficult, and it must be expressed not as sentiment or emotion but as real obedience to God. So, we weak human beings need the daily assistance of a Divine Helper in the Person of the Holy Spirit to practice real love. The Greek word used in John’s Gospel for this Helper is Parakletos. For the Greeks, the word parakletos meant a lawyer, a legal assistant, a courtroom advocate. Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate Who speaks up for us when we’re accused, judged, or wrongly condemned, and our Witness Who testifies in our behalf. Parakletos can also refer to a person who comforts, counsels, or strengths us in time of need. The Holy Spirit gives us Life, stands by us, defends us, strengthens us, and consoles us. Jesus was the first Paraclete sent by the Father. “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” (I Jn 2:1). Since Jesus’ presence as a Paraclete was limited in time and place, he assured his disciples of “another Paraclete” in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit assists us in our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life in the true Christian spirit. The Paraclete is our Defense Attorney defending us before God, the Judge. Although the penalty for our sins has been paid in full by Jesus, we still need the help of the Holy Spirit in our daily struggles against sin. In addition to being Companion, Defense Attorney, Witness and Prosecutor (enlightening us to our own sinfulness and leading us to repentance), the Paraclete will also be present to teach the disciples and to remind them of what Jesus had taught them (14:25-26). (For the additional roles of the Holy Spirit confer Jn 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7-14).
Assurance of the Risen Lord’s presence with us. Jesus assures his disciples that they will not be left as orphans. He promises them awareness of his risen presence – in themselves, in each other, in the Church, in Scripture, in the Sacraments, and in the praying community — through the enlightening presence, teaching and action of the Holy Spirit. We will never have to face any trial alone—even death—if we walk with Jesus. He protects us from the Evil One. His Resurrection, in fact, changed the despair of the apostles to hope when they realized beyond doubt that Jesus is the Son of God. “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20). The indwelling Spirit of God nourishes us each time we receive the Sacraments, each time we pray, and each time we read the Bible.
Life message: We need to be open to the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete. 1) The purpose of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to help us grow towards maturity and wholeness. We all have faults that prevent our growth: blocks of sin and imperfection, blocks due to childhood conflicts, blocks due to deeply ingrained personality traits and habits, blocks caused by addictions, and blocks resulting from bad choices we have made. We all have these blocks within us and they keep us from becoming what God wants us to be. They prevent us from growing into maturity and wholeness. God, the Holy Spirit, helps us to see the truth about ourselves, to discern the blocks that inhibit our growth and to allow Him to transform us. 2) Like the Good counselor He is, the Spirit enables us to become stronger. The Holy Spirit comes to our aid and gives us the strength to make difficult and painful decisions. 3) The Holy Spirit actually lives in us, and we hear the voice of the Spirit, counseling and guiding us in the way of truth. Let us open our minds and hearts to hear Him and to obey His promptings.
JOKES OF THE WEEK: The Heavenly Attorney’s earthly counterparts.
1) A lawyer and a Pope die at the same time and go up to Heaven together. After they’ve been there awhile, the Pope notices that the lawyer gets a little better treatment than he does. So, he calls St. Peter over to ask him and says, “You know that lawyer I came up here with? Well, I’m not complaining, but he seems to be treated a little better than I am… he’s got a better house and more servants. I don’t understand. I was a Pope and served God all my life; this guy was just a lawyer. What gives?” St. Peter responded, “You have to understand – we get Popes all the time; this is the first lawyer we’ve ever had.”
2) An attorney was on vacation in a small farming town. While walking through the streets, he noticed that a car was involved in an accident. As expected, a large crowd gathered. The attorney was eager to get to the injured, but he couldn’t get near the car. Being a rather clever person, he started shouting loudly, “Let me through! Let me through! I am the son of the victim.” The crowd made way for him. Lying in front of the car was a donkey!
3) A lawyer’s dog, running around town unleashed, heads for a butcher shop and steals a roast. The butcher goes to the lawyer’s office and asks, “If a dog running unleashed steals a piece of meat from my store, do I have a right to demand payment for the meat from the dog’s owner?” The lawyer answers, “Absolutely.” “Then you owe me $8.50. Your dog was loose and stole a roast from me today.” The lawyer, without a word, writes the butcher a check for $8.50. The butcher, with a feeling of satisfaction, leaves. Three days later, the butcher finds a bill from the lawyer for $100– for consultation.
4) In the mint, a one-dollar bill and a twenty-dollar bill become friends. They get split up and go into circulation. Six years later they happen to be in the same load of bills returned to the mint for destruction. So the one says to the twenty, “How was your life?” “Oh, marvelous,” says the twenty, “I went to Vegas, to Europe, last year to the Super Bowl, just wonderful. And you, what about your life.” “Awful,” says the one dollar bill, “every week the same: church, church, church.” Hmm.
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK: (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).
- Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
- Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
- Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
- Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
- Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
6) Website for Catholic families: http://www.domestic-church.com/index.htm
7) Modern Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/
8) Catholic search engine: http://www.cath.com/
9) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
25 Additional anecdotes: 1) “No ticket please; he is my friend.” Here is the true story of a pastor. One day I was stopped for speeding. I knew I was wrong. I was late for the Mass in a remote mission church. I was driving on a brand new four-lane highway with almost no traffic. When I saw those flashing blue and yellow lights behind me, I knew that I was going to be even later for the Holy Mass. After the patrolman got my license, he went back to his car. I waited for him to return with the judgment against my mistake. As I waited, another police car pulled up behind the first. The man with my license went back to the second car. My anxiety level was rising. He left the second car and came back to my car. He handed me my license and said, “The sergeant says that you’re a friend of his. Keep your speed down and drive carefully.” He returned to his car and drove off. So, did I.– I was guilty. I had broken the law. I deserved the ticket. I deserved to pay the fine, but because of a friendship, my mistake was forgiven and forgotten. There was no penalty to pay. This is how Divine Grace works. We are saved because Jesus considers us his friends, as stated in today’s Gospel.
2) “I can’t believe what you just did.” There is a story about a woman, Dorothy Pryse, who was listening to a Christian radio station as she drove to the grocery store one morning. The radio preacher was talking about kindness. He said, “I wonder how many of you are listening to me on your car radio and thinking of how you can be kind while driving?” Dorothy began thinking about what he was saying. A few blocks away, she saw a woman waiting in her car to come out of her driveway. Traffic was heavy, and Dorothy knew this woman would have a hard time getting out, so she slowed down and let her back out. The woman smiled and waved. When she got to the grocery store, Dorothy saw a parking space. As she started pulling in, another car on the opposite side began to pull into the same spot. Once again, Dorothy backed out and found another parking spot. As they both got out of their cars, the driver of the other car said, “I can’t believe what you just did. Anyone else would have made me back out.” Dorothy explained what she had heard on the radio about showing love. The two women began talking. Dorothy discovered the woman had just moved into the area, didn’t know anyone, and was looking for a Church. “I invited her to come to our Church,” Dorothy says, “and a strong friendship has blossomed from our chance meeting and a small act of kindness.” — This story illustrates that one can experience the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and act according to His promptings — just as Dorothy and the apostle Philip did.
3) “I will not leave you as orphans.” The 55-year-old factory worker is laid off when the plant closes leaving him with no prospect of another job. Too old and too weary to consider re-training, without skills that can be retooled, he feels alone. Unemployed and living on pension funds that will soon run out, does he have anyone there to say to him, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will not abandon you”? Or how about the eighty-year-old, alone at home after fifty years of marriage? Her spouse no longer with her, she nods off in front of the television set, a half-eaten frozen meal cold in front of her. She is alone in a house too big for her; her children, with lives of their own, are in different towns. Who is there to say to her, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will not abandon you”? Or the AIDS-ravaged young man in Africa. His errant lifestyle has brought shame on his family and driven his friends away. His body is dying, and he lies alone in pain. For him and for the millions of others throughout the world who face this dreaded disease, who is there to say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will not abandon you”? It may be the teenager who is different from the rest, the wife or husband whose spouse has left, the businessman whose business is failing, or the parent whose child has rebelled and left home, or any of the countless others in the world around us who feel alone and without hope, rejected and lonely, like a rookie facing Bob Gibson. — To them and to us, there is Good News this morning. For there is One Who is here to say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will not abandon you.”
4) The Holy Spirit is the best Teacher. A pilot, a business executive, a pastor and a Boy Scout were flying together on a small private plane when they suddenly experienced engine trouble. Within a matter of minutes, the pilot said, “This plane is going down. Furthermore, I have noticed we have only three parachutes on board. I have a wife and children at home. They are expecting me for dinner.” With that the pilot took a parachute and jumped. Immediately the business executive spoke up and said, “Some people think I am the smartest person on earth. If I should perish in this plane, it would be a great loss, not just to my company, but to the world.” With that, he grabbed for a parachute and jumped. That’s when that pastor turned to the Boy Scout and said, “Son, you are young, and I am old. You have your life ahead of you. I’ve finished mine. Take the remaining parachute and jump.” But the Boy Scout said, “Relax Reverend. The ‘smartest man in all the world’ just grabbed my backpack and jumped!” –“When the Holy Spirit comes, He will teach you all things” (v. 26). Did you have a favorite teacher? What was he or she like? Great teachers awaken us to possibilities, enlighten us to truth, sensitize us to others, and give us tools to carry on. The Holy Spirit is like a good teacher.
5) Elizabeth Barrett Browning: One of the most famous of all the 19th century English women poets was a woman by the name of Elizabeth Barrett. An invalid for many years, her illness was very severe, so that in the end, she was so weak that she could not even raise her head from her pillow. One day, she was visited by another poet, a man by the name of Robert Browning, who had come to meet the author of the poetry that had inspired him so. After his first visit, an amazing thing happened. He left Elizabeth with such joy and happiness that she was able to lift her head. On his second visit, she sat up in bed. And on their third, they eloped and were married. Today she is known as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the great 19th century English love poets. — Such is the power of love! Love has the power to heal. It has the power to make well. It has the power to lift drooping heads and fill empty hearts. No wonder people were healed just by coming into the presence of Jesus! Did you ever wonder about that, those stories in the New Testament that tell of someone who came to Jesus and with just a touch or with just a word was made well? There’s no secret to that. If we believe that Jesus was God’s Love Incarnate, God’s Love in the flesh, why shouldn’t people be healed just by coming into contact with Jesus? For love has the power to do that. But we must first come into God’s presence through prayer, through Bible, through the Eucharist.
6) Jimmy Reed’s wife: Stashed away in a drawer somewhere around my house, now nearly forgotten, is a batch of old 45 rpm records from the ’50s and early ’60s. Worn and scratchy, long since outmoded by the flashy digital technology of compact discs, these primitive vinyls were once the jewels of a great treasure trove. Here and there in this dusty stack, one can find an occasional recording by the great bluesmaster Jimmy Reed. In placing the phonograph needle again and again in the grooves of Jimmy Reed’s records, we began to notice something curious. If one listened very carefully, there could sometimes be heard, ever so faintly in the background, a soft woman’s voice murmuring in advance the next verse of the song. The story that grew up around this — and perhaps it is true — was that Jimmy Reed was so absorbed in the bluesy beat and the throbbing guitar riffs of his music that he simply could not remember the words of his own songs. He needed help with the lyrics, and the woman’s voice was none other than that of his wife, devotedly coaching her husband through the recording session by whispering the upcoming stanzas into his ear as he sang. — Whether or not this story is accurate, Christians will surely recognize a parallel experience. Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to whisper the lyrics of the Gospel song in our souls, all the time.
7) “Did we land, or were we shot down?” A commercial airline pilot, on one occasion, made a particularly bad landing. The wheels of the big jet hit the runway with a jarring thud. Afterward, the airline had a policy, which required that the pilot stand at the door while the passengers exited. He was to give each of them a smile and say, “Thanks for flying with us today.” In light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment, but no one seemed annoyed. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for one little old lady walking with a cane. She approached the pilot and asked, “Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am, what is it?” said the pilot bravely. “Did we land,” she asked, “or were we shot down?” — Maybe you’ve had days like that–days when it felt like you were shot down. Even worse, maybe things are going quite well for you, really. Your friends and your family tell you how fortunate you are. But you don’t feel fortunate. It is on such occasions that we need the prompt assistance of the Holy Spirit.
8) “Watch Jimmie in chapel!” In his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks tells the story of Jimmie, a former sailor, now a patient in a nursing home, whose severe neurological disorder had left him with a profound and permanent amnesia. He simply had no memory of anything from 1945 on. Having no ability to retrieve the past and no ability to construct a meaningful present, Jimmie lacked the continuity that makes for a sense of the self. He was, wrote Sacks, a person who “wore a look of infinite sadness and resignation.” However, when Sacks asked the Sisters who ran the nursing home whether Jimmie had lost his soul, the Sisters were outraged by the question. “Watch Jimmie in chapel,” they said, “and judge for yourself.” So, Sacks did watch Jimmie in chapel, and there he observed an astounding transformation. He saw an intensity and steadiness in Jimmie that he had not observed before. As he received Holy Communion, there was “perfect alignment of his spirit with the spirit of the Mass.” There in worship, Jimmie was no longer at the mercy of a faulty and fallible memory. — Jimmie in his own way is like all of us. In the final analysis, none of us is able to construct a self. We must all be given a story and a continuity not of our own making. Where we have no faithful memory, God remembers, and by the grace of God, the Spirit whispers the lyrics of the saving Gospel in our ears. (The story, from Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, is reported in Craig Dykstra, “Memory and Truth,” Theology Today, XLIV/2, p. 162.).
9) “Video Baby.” A few years ago, The New York Times carried an interesting ad for a video tape titled “Video Baby.” It’s a 30-minute tape, designed for busy people who are devoted to family values, but can’t seem to find the time to start a family of their own! The tape shows two infants doing the cute things that babies do, like crawl around, play with a rattle, take a bubble bath, play with their toes, smile angelically, and then fall quietly asleep. No spitting up, no crying, and no diapers! The ad says, “Enjoy bath time without being splashed, and mealtime without wearing the food. Just set the VCR and use the off button whenever you like.” Imagine the possibilities for a sequel: “Video Teenager”! — Today’s readings invite us to experience for ourselves the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit living within us for facing the problems of life, not for avoiding them.
10) The soup of the soup of the duck: Here is a Nasruddin story retold by Fr. De Mello, S. J. A relative once came to visit Nasruddin, bringing a duck as a gift. The bird was cooked and eaten. Soon one guest after another began to call, each claiming to be a friend of the friend of the “the man who brought you the duck.” Each one, of course, expected to be fed and housed on the strength of that hapless bird. At length the mullah could stand it no longer. One day a stranger arrived at his house and said, “I am a friend of the friend of the kinsman who brought you the duck.” And, like the others, he sat down, expecting to be fed. Nasruddin placed a bowl of steaming water before him. “What is this?” asked the stranger.” “This,” said the mullah, “is the soup of the soup of the duck that was brought to me by your friend.” — De Mello says, “One hears of people who become the disciples of the disciples of the disciples of someone who had experienced the Divine. How can you kiss through a messenger?” Today’s Gospel reminds us that we should have first-hand experience of the Spirit of the Triune God living within us and share it with others as Philip did (Acts 8:5-8).
11) Father helping his son to cross the finish line: At the 400 metre race at the 1992 summer Olympics, a young man was hungry to win a gold medal after being forced to withdraw from the previous Olympics because of injury. However, at the start of the race, Englishman Derek Redmond popped his right hamstring. This is a severe and excruciating injury. All the other runners continued the race leaving him like an orphan alone on the track. Amazingly Redmond got back up and started hopping towards the finish line. The other runners had all finished the race in a matter of seconds. Redmond, in tears, slowly and laboriously kept hopping. It looked as if he would fall any moment now. Suddenly, a man appeared beside Derek. His father had run down from the stands and pushed his way through the security guards to reach his son. Redmond’s father put his arm around his son and let him cry on his shoulder for a second. Then, with his father holding him up, Derek hobbled to the finish line and then he hopped over the line by himself to finish the race. –There’s a word of hope for you and me. When we are feeling like orphans, feeling deserted, alone, abandoned, unloved, futureless, we have a Father who gives us His strength to keep on going, a Saviour who whispers to us, “We will do this together”, and the Holy Spirit who cheers us on and will enables us to cross the finish line. We are not abandoned because we have a God who loves us. He says to each of personally and individually, “I will not leave you as orphans.” (Fr. Gerhardy).
12) Domesticated eagle. Once a tribesman who lived in a forest found the egg of an eagle, took it home and hatched it along with other chicken eggs. The eaglet started growing along with other chickens in the farm. It started eating bugs, pecking and hopping here and there like the other chicks. But it never learnt to fly like an eagle. One day as it was scratching the ground for food it saw an eagle majestically flying high in the sky. The eaglet started looking at it and admiring its grandeur when other chicks came to the eaglet and said, “Look, that one is the eagle, the king of birds. You and I are chickens and we cannot fly like that eagle. Leave him and alone and come let us go search for our food.” The poor eaglet from then on thought it was a chicken and lived like a chicken and never learnt to fly. — A Christian who does not allow the Holy Spirit living within him or her to be active is like the eaglet in the story who did not realize who it is and what it is capable of. (Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J.).
13) Angel carrying torch and water: There is a story about a person who saw an angel walking down the street. The angel was carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. “What are you going to do with that torch and that water?” the person asked. The angel looked at the person and said, “With this torch, I am going to burn down the mansions of Heaven; and with the bucket of water, I am going to put out the fires of Hell. Then we’re going to see who really loves God.” — The angel’s point was that many people obey God’s commandments out of fear of punishment in Hell or hope of reward in Heaven. They don’t obey God for the reason Jesus gives in today’s Gospel. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” (Fr. Chirackal).
14) Doing what his Father said: More than ninety people conducted an all-night search for Dominic DeCarlo, an eight-year-old boy lost on a snowy mountain slope. Dominic, who had been on a skiing trip with his father, apparently had ridden on a new lift and skied off the run without realizing it. An hour passed, the search party and the boy’s family became more concerned for his health and safety. By dawn they had found no trace of the boy. Two helicopter crews joined the search and within fifteen minutes they spotted ski tracks. A ground team followed the tracks, which changed to small footprints. The footprints led to a tree, where they found the boy at last. “He’s in super shape!” Sergeant Terry Silbaugh, area search and rescue coordinator announced to the anxious family and press. “In fact, he’s in better shape than we are in right now!” Silbaugh explained why the boy did so well despite spending a night in the freezing elements. His father had had enough foresight to warn the boy what to do if he became lost, and his son had enough trust to do exactly what the father said. Dominic protected himself from frostbite and hypothermia by snuggling up to the tree and covering himself with branches. — As a young child, he would never have thought of doing this on his own. He was simply obeying his wise and loving father. (Luis Palau from Devotions; quoted by Fr. Botelho)
15) Believing in the Power: On the banks of a river lived a hermit. Over thirty years he had been doing ‘Sadhana’ to walk on water. He was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. He sustained his life only on cow’s milk which was supplied by an eleven-year-old girl, living on the other bank of the river. One day her mother said to her, “There are heavy clouds and there is going to be a downpour and the river will be flooded. Tell the hermit that you won’t come tomorrow.” The girl did so. The hermit said to the girl. “Don’t worry about the flood. I will teach you a ‘mantra’ and you will be able to walk on the water. Close your eyes and repeat ‘Krishna, Krishna, Krishna’ and you can comfortably walk on water.” As expected, the rain came in torrents and the river was overflowing. The girl got ready to take milk to the hermit. The mother refused. But the girl told her mother that the hermit had given her a ‘mantra’ to walk on water. Believing her, the mother allowed her to go. The girl went to the river, closed her eyes, repeated ‘Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,’ and walked on the water. The hermit was looking on in wonder. Repeating the ‘mantra’ the girl returned home walking on water. The hermit thought to himself. “How wonderful, I enabled that girl to walk on water. I have the power. Now let me try for myself.” Confidently, he stepped on the water and drowned forthwith. –-The young girl had tremendous faith in the mantra given by the hermit, a faith that the hermit himself did not have. It is implicit Faith that can-do wonders in this world. [G. Francis Xavier in The World’s best Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
16) No orphans in the reign of God: Margaret Fishback, a young woman, who searched for direction at the crossroads of her life, composed a beautiful poem with the title “Footprints,” which has appeared on plaques, and cards, calendars, and posters and is treasured by millions all over the world. “One night I had a dream – I dreamed of walking along the beach with the Lord and across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints, one belonged to me and the other belonged to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before me I looked back, I looked at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of life, there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of my life. This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most, you should leave me.” The Lord replies, “My precious little child, I love you and I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” – The Good News given to us today is that while the journey of life will not always be easy, it need not be travelled alone. [John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
17) Responding to the Spirit: When Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United States, one of the more vivid moments in the campaign passed by almost unnoticed. One Sunday morning, candidate Carter had been worshiping at the Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. When the service was over, he exited the church into the swarm of press encamped on the church’s front lawn. Cameras whirring, video lights glaring, microphones thrust forward, the media mavens moved in for interviews, pushing themselves to think of clever questions to ask a presidential candidate on the way out of a Southern Baptist Church — “Did you like the sermon?” “Did you enjoy the choir this morning?” “Do you plan to remain a Baptist in Washington?” — on and on the banal questions spewed. Suddenly, a reporter, probably in a stroke of luck, shouted out a question that genuinely mattered: “Mr. Carter, suppose when you are President, you get into a situation where the laws of the United States are in conflict with what you understand to be the will of God. Which will you follow, the laws of the state or the Commandments of God?” Carter stopped, looked up, and blinked into the bright Georgia sun, obviously turning the question over in his mind. Then, perhaps still “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” perhaps with the Spirit gently whispering the lyrics of the Gospel into his ears, he turned toward the reporter and replied: “I would obey the Commandments of God.” Alert aides, alarmed by this candor, unnerved by their candidate’s near-treasonous remark, hurriedly whisked him away from the press and into a waiting car. — Carter the politician should have avoided the question, or hewed closely to the law of the land, but Carter the Christian had the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ whispering in his ear, “Do you love Me? The world cannot see or know Me, but do you love Me? Do you keep My Commandments? (Quoted by Fr. Kayala).
18) “S.S. HOPE“ The U.S.S. Consolation served as a hospital ship from 1944-1955. It offered healing and comfort to the wounded in both World War II and the Korean conflict. The Consolation was decommissioned in 1958, but instead of being sold for scrap or made into a floating museum, the Consolation was reborn in 1960 when it was turned over to a newly formed civilian service organization – Project Hope. “HOPE” was the acronym for a civilian medical volunteer service organization — “”Health Opportunities for People Everywhere” (today, think, “Doctors Without Borders”). In short, the U.S.S. Consolation got a new coat of white paint and was re-named the S.S. HOPE – a name that was painted in huge red letters across her bow. For the next fourteen years that “HOPE” floated across the seas of the world, pulling into ports from Malaysia and Indonesia to South America and the Caribbean, bringing hands-on medical care to whoever needed it, offering medical training for any and all local care-givers, and extending medical education to families to help them keep healthy. — What a different image from a cruise ship to a Hope Ship! Instead of a lights-blazing, music-blaring, hangover-bringing, big white party ship, every time the S.S. HOPE pulled into a new port its mission and message were spelled out simply four big red letters: H.O.P.E. The clear declaration of hope is what 1 Pt is all about — Hope in Christ. (Quoted by Fr. Kayala).
19) “I will not leave you orphans:” In 1626, the French Jesuits launched an organized missionary effort among the Huron Indians. The Hurons, a nation of Iroquoian stock, then lived near Georgian Bay in Canada’s Province of Ontario. Leader of these Jesuits was the notable Father Jean de Brebeuf. The Huron apostolate was difficult, but gradually some of the Indians began to embrace the Gospel. One of the most admirable converts was Tehoronhiongo. Baptized “Francis” by Fr. Brebeuf himself, he developed into a man of prayer who sought constantly to deepen his knowledge of the Faith. Unfortunately for the Huron mission, the New York Iroquois began a war of extermination in 1642 against their Huron cousins, striking also at the French who sided with the Hurons. After eight years the Iroquois achieved their aim. They broke up and scattered the Huron nation. During that bitter struggle, Fr. Brebeuf and four other Jesuit priests in Huronia were murdered. (They were canonized as martyrs in 1930). A great many Hurons fell before the enemies. Many more were taken captive and “adopted” by their conquerors. Indeed, one whole Huron village, St. Michael’s, originally located near Orr Lake in Ontario, was induced to move down to New York State. They resettled near Holcomb, N.Y., in the country of the Seneca Iroquois. One of the citizens of this “adopted” captive village was Francis Tehoronhiongo. Of course, he and the other exiled Huron Christians were now deprived of priests. Finally, however, the Iroquois made peace with the French and even invited Jesuit “blackrobes” to come into the Iroquois country. There were perils involved in accepting this invitation; still, the Jesuits did send the missionaries. When Fr. Jacques Fremin arrived at St. Michael’s in 1668, Francis greeted him warmly. He had been praying for twenty years to be able to receive the sacrament of penance again before he died. Now he said to Father Fremin, “At last God has heard me. Confess me!” The priest was touched and very happy to oblige. Fr. Jacques found Francis “an old man of approved Faith.” He now engaged him as a catechist. Not only did the Huron understand well the mysteries of the Faith; he behaved with such Christian dignity that no other Indian ventured to speak indecently or irreverently in his presence. — In today’s Gospel, Our Lord promises “I will not leave you orphaned.” He who had established the Sacrament of Reconciliation did not abandon this old Huron who prayed for a chance to go to confession. Far from leaving us orphaned today, Jesus provides us constantly with priests whom He uses as the instruments of His presence and His absolution. The sad fact is that we do not approach these priests more frequently and more appreciatively, asking them with Huron Francis “Confess me!” –(Father Robert F. McNamara).
20) The Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit: There is a touching story told of a humble, consecrated pastor, whose young son had become very ill. After the boy had undergone an exhaustive series of tests, the father was told the shocking news that his son had a terminal illness. The youngster had accepted Christ as his Savior, so the minister knew that death would usher him into glory; but he wondered how to inform one in the bloom of youth that soon he would die. After earnestly seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit, he went with a heavy heart through the hospital ward to the boy’s bedside. First, he read a passage of Scripture and had a time of prayer with his dear child. Then he gently told him that the doctors could promise him only a few more days to live. “Are you afraid to meet Jesus, my boy?” asked his devout father.
Blinking away a few tears, the little fellow said bravely, “No, not if He’s like you, Dad!” (Fr. Lakra).
21) How TV’s Were Born: A little over 75 years ago a little-known American inventor of Russian descent, Vladimir Kosma Zworykin began to work for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Over the next few years Mr. Zworykin worked on an idea called an iconoscope and a kinescope. The kinescope would eventually come to be known as the Cathode Ray Tube and in 1929, Mr. Zworykin revealed his great invention to whole world in a much-publicized demonstration. The iconoscope became the TV Camera for broadcasting and the Cathode Ray Tube became our TV Receiver. All of this came about because of the small seed of an idea in the mind of one man. — Now, because of that idea, we all sit and watch “in the branches” of the “tree” that grew from that small mustard seed. As you can see, from the small seed of an idea great things can grow. And so it is with your Faith in God and with the presence of Holy Spirit within your heart. (Source Unknown).
22) “Yes, we are all here.” I recall the story of a little girl who, when trains were popular transportation, was taking her first train ride with her parents. As night descended, the mother took the girl, who was clearly quite anxious, and placed her on the upper bunk of the sleeper. She told her little one that up there she would be nearer to God and that God would watch over her. As silence enveloped the young lady she became afraid and called softly, “Mommy, are you there?” “Yes dear,” came the response. A little later, in a louder voice, the child called, “Daddy, are you there, too?” “Yes dear,” was the reply. After this had been repeated several times one of the passengers sharing their sleeper car finally lost his patience and shouted loudly, “Yes, we’re all here, your father, your mother, your brother, and all your aunts and cousins; now settle down and go to sleep!” There was a moment of silence and then, in hushed tones a little voice asked, “Mommy, was that God?“ – Jesus, in offering peace, does not say, “I’m here, the Holy Spirit’s here and God is here, now be at peace!” The peace that Jesus offers cannot be had simply by desiring. The peace of God is a gift, it can only be received as a by-product of faith. That’s why the world is largely a stranger to it.
23) “It is well, it is well, with my soul.” Many of you know the story behind one of America’s best loved hymns, “It is well with my soul.” Horatio Spafford was a wealthy businessman from Chicago. However, the Chicago fire of 1871 wiped Spafford out financially. A couple of years later Spafford’s wife and four children were traveling to Europe when their ship collided with another ship. The four children perished, while Anna survived. She later sent Horatio a telegram with these two words, “Saved Alone.” Spafford, heartbroken and sad caught a boat to be with his wife. It was on that voyage that he wrote:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like a sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
— Have you found that kind of peace? You can, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. We live in God’s world. And we are created to live in community with one another. Thanks be to God. Amen.
24)UFOs & God: Many of you watched the television program “CBS Reports on Unidentified Flying Objects.” The sum and substance of the whole report was that if there were UFO’s around, we have the equipment and the knowledge to know that they are there — and they are not. But I was particularly intrigued with the final statement of that program, made by a young, brainy, eminent astronomer. The reporter had asked him why he thought there was so much interest in so many observations of UFO’s today, if they didn’t really exist. And with sophisticated, intellectual snobbery, he said, with all of the country listening and as the final punch line of that program: “Oh, I suppose it’s our contemporary substitute for God. They take the place of that superhuman, omniscient, all-seeing, benevolent creature out there some place that people like to think are watching over them but in which nobody believes very much today.”
— There it is, fellow citizens, and I shuddered, because it gives us the answer for our neglect of prayer, our obsession and our preoccupation with our own power to answer our own prayers! Power – it’s the keynote of our age, power windows, power brakes, power steering, power garage doors, power politics, computerized power, transistorized power, industrial power, financial power. We are strong. We are independent. We need no help of any kind from anyone. We are wise and powerful, wealthy and affluent. (Rev. Louis H. Valbracht)
25) Be similarly hope-filled, despite the hostility and persecution. Author and playwright, Václav Havel was sentenced to four-and one-half years in prison in 1979 for his involvement in the Czech human rights movement. Though he would later become his country’s president (1989), he suffered years of rejection and persecution for his beliefs. When asked the reason for his hope in the face of so much hostility, he replied, “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for success, but an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it has a chance to succeed” (Disturbing the Peace, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1990). — In the second reading from 1 Peter, the author exhorted his readers to be similarly hope-filled, despite the hostility and persecution to which they were subjected because of their commitment to Christ. (Sanchez Files). L/23
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 31) by Fr. Tony:firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C & A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604