Fr. Charles Irvin
6th Easter [A] 2011
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
The readings of this Mass impel me to reflect with you upon two things which are interior within us, two things that are mysterious and can be known only in their expression. One is love and the other is the Holy Spirit. Both cannot be really known in themselves; both are made real for us in their activity, in their expression, in their external manifestations that we bring into our lives in our responses to God’s love for us.
As we all know so very well, talk is cheap and words are without meaning unless expressed in deeds. Love is not simply a nice feeling, a sentiment, or merely a warm emotion. Love becomes real in the decisions we make and in what we do. It is in its actions, actions that result from our choices, that love is realized.
Don’t get me wrong, the words of love are of extreme importance. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I love you.” In fact those three little words can be the most beautiful and powerful of all the words in a person’s life. It is vital for husbands to tell their wives that they love them. It is vital for wives to tell their husbands that they love them. It is vital for children to hear words of love from their moms and dads. But while the words are important the deeds are even more important, even of the essence.
And for friends, too. Friends should not be ashamed to openly declare their love for one another. When you’re told that you are loved a redemptive force is let loose inside you – a powerful force lifts you up out of feelings of depression, loneliness… feelings of being unappreciated and merely used. Probably more lives have been changed by those three little words than by all of the sermons ever preached.
Jesus did not discount the value of the verbal communication of love. He went beyond it. He knew that love is much more than mere words. In fact, He knew of love’s power to change the whole world, telling us even to love our enemies, and that if we truly did, the world would be radically changed. And then Jesus went on to prove it in the way He died for us, in the way He died to redeem our world, to buy it back from this world’s loveless miseries.
What a realist this Jesus is! We, however, are the ones who tend to make love unrealistic. We tend to make love into something soft, dreamy, and cheap, merely a feeling. If you think we don’t, then just take a look at what television does with love, and how Hollywood treats it. Jesus, on the other hand, defines love in terms that are strong, concrete, self-sacrificial, and very real. Love is action; love is a way of living; love is an attitude toward others that expresses God’s attitude toward others. And then Jesus went on to cry out: “The one who hears my words and keeps them is the one who loves me.” That’s how we know that we live and have our being in love.
The Holy Spirit, the Person of the Holy Trinity who is Love personified, acts internally within each one of us. The Holy Spirit is present within our hearts and souls, animating, vivifying, and inspiring us. We can never see the Holy Spirit as separate and apart — standing alone. The Holy Spirit lives and breathes within our souls. We see the Holy Spirit in our actions and in the actions of others.
The Bible assigns several different names to the Holy Spirit, identifying Him as the Consoler, the Advocate, the Sanctifier, and the Paraclete. As the bible presents Him, the Holy Spirit protects and defends us against our Ancient Enemy. He is our Advocate, the One who stands with us particularly when we feel worthless, useless, and of no value in God’s eyes. His consolations strengthen us when we feel weak, inadequate, and powerless.
The word “Paraclete” in Greek translates into English as “to be beside one”. The Holy Spirit stands beside us; He is our Advocate, our Counselor, and our Guide. Jesus bids us to look to the gifts of the Holy Spirit to work within us – Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, and Reverence for the Lord, Strength, and so forth. For us, He is the Empowering One given to us by the Risen Christ. The Evil One seeks to weaken us; the Holy Spirit strengthens us.
The Holy Spirit vivifies us and animates us, that is to say He enlivens us; He gives us a sharing in God’s life. He is beside us to defend us when we are depressed. When the sacraments of the devil beset us the Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Counsel in order that we might defend ourselves.
And what are those sacraments of the devil? Well, they all begin with “d’s”, just as does the word devil. His sacraments (and there are seven of them) are doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair and death. We need our Advocate, our Consoler, our Defender, our Paraclete, the “one called to be beside us” when we face doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair and death, those works of the devil.
And just like love, we discern the Holy Spirit’s presence within us when we cause external things to happen – when we act and engage with the world around us. The Holy Spirit comes to us so that we in turn will stand beside others and console them with our deeds.
Love and the Holy Spirit – both cannot be known in and of themselves. Both are made present to us, made real for us. Both are realized in acts, in deeds, in things that are done. Both animate and vivify us, filling us with their special life. Both are expressions of God. God makes Himself real for us, expresses Himself, and becomes present to us in both love and in His Holy Spirit.
And so as we approach the Ascension of our Lord and the great Solemnity of Pentecost we should look to God with expectant faith while seeking for His great gift to us — the sending of His Holy Spirit into us, that same Spirit who raised the humanity of Jesus Christ from the dead and who can, if we respond to God, raise up ours also and the world around us.