Well, after last week’s movie-themed birthday party, I feel obligated now to come up with a movie reference in this week’s homily. But the readings this week don’t so much lend themselves to a particular movie. Rather, they remind me of a movie trailer. Hollywood pretty much has movie trailers down to a science.
There’s a formula for an action movie: a black screen with a foreboding line from one of the main characters. Epic music playing loudly, with plenty of drumbeats and horns blaring. Big words flash in between cuts of action and danger. And of course, no action movie trailer would be complete without that one guy’s voice who says things like:
- “In a world… where mutant zombies are running the CIA…”
- “In a world… where cool ranch Doritos give superhuman strength to four ordinary kids”
- “In a world… where rodeo clowns are humanity’s only hope…”
Don’t you want to see that movie? With movie trailers, they’re really good at getting us interested in the story without giving it away. Also, they’re really good at making me want to buy some Doritos.
Today in the gospel, we basically have a movie trailer. Jesus is about to ascend to the Father. He is preparing his apostles for the time when he is no longer going to be with them, either in the flesh, or in his resurrected body. And so he gives them his parting instructions: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Not only that, but he promises to send the Advocate, that is, the Holy Spirit. It’s a foreshadowing of Pentecost, which we will celebrate in two weeks.
If you love me, keep my commandments.
It’s interesting that Jesus ties love to obedience. In our world today, we hear the message that love is permissiveness. E.g. “If you really loved me, you’d let me do XYZ…”
Jesus’ message is different. Love is not just an emotion. Love is an action. Love is doing what is best for the other, regardless of the cost to oneself.
Take, for example, the mother and father of a newborn baby. For those first several weeks, the baby doesn’t sleep thru the night. The parents, awakened by the crying baby, probably feel like rolling over and going back to sleep. But they get up and take care of the baby in spite of what they feel like doing.
If we love Jesus, then we will want to keep his commandments. And what are these commandments? Remember, Jesus has given us a new law and a new commandment: love one another as he has loved us.
What does that look like? I offer just a few
- Stop judging others. That is, don’t judge a person’s motives. While we can and should judge others’ actions, we cannot know what is going on in the mind of another person, unless he tells us. When we judge others’ motives, we often fall into resentment.
- Put away resentment. Resentment comes from the French word that means “to feel again.” Resentment is like anger, but instead of letting go of the offense, we begin replaying it over and over again in our minds. It traps us in a foul mood. Resentment is poison to the soul and it prevent us from acting with charity.
- Be obedient to the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s not a do-it-yourself religion. Jesus told Peter, “what you hold bound on earth, I will hold bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth, I will loose in heaven.” And the Church does not tie up heavy burdens that are impossible to carry. Rather, she gives us a few simple precepts to follow:
- Attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day
- Go to Penance at least once a year
- Receive Communion at least once a year in the Easter season
- Contribute to the needs of the Church
- Observe the rules of fasting
It is in obedience to the commands of Christ that we show our love for him, and our love for him causes us to respond to him with obedience.
But we are not left as orphans, expected to do it all on our own.
Sending the Spirit.
Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will remain with us and in us always. I find it curious that Jesus makes a distinction here: those of the world, who don’t know the Holy Spirit, and those who are Jesus’ disciples, who do know the Holy Spirit. The world doesn’t see or know the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. We have in our day, a crisis of truth.
- Our politicians constantly complain about “fake news,” which leaves many people asking, “What, if anything we hear, is the truth?”
- In our universities, our professors are denying the truth in order to push an ideology. They deny historical events and rewrite the narrative to fit their worldview. They deny that our chromosomes determine whether we’re male or female.
- Then there’s our postmodern culture, which denies that there are any objective moral standards by which we should live. You have your truth, I have mine. Don’t tell me how to behave.
It’s no wonder that the world doesn’t recognize the Spirit. They may claim to be spiritual, but they do so on their own terms. We Christians, on the other hand, live by the Spirit sent to us by our Lord. He is the Spirit of Truth, and if we are baptized, then He lives within us. If we are confirmed, then we are strengthened by the same Spirit.
I think for most Catholics, we can easily picture in our minds God the Father and God the Son. But God the Holy Spirit is a bit tricky. Most of the time we think of a dove, or a tongue of fire. But that’s not entirely accurate. The Holy Spirit didn’t become a dove—the Holy Spirit is not made of matter. Rather, the Holy Spirit is like a dove in that he brings us peace. He also allows our souls to soar to the Father in worship. He burns within our hearts like a fire, giving us zeal for the gospel.
The Holy Spirit is better described as God’s presence dwelling within us. The Holy Spirit comes with his gifts of wisdom, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, understanding, piety, and fear of the Lord. With these gifts, he prompts us and guides us in right conduct. He lets us recognize the truth and walk towards it. He draws us into the love of God, and he impels us to love one another.
We, the Body of Christ have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. You and I are the members of the Body, Christ is the head, and the Holy Spirit is the very soul of that body. He animates us, moves us to act with love, and draws us to worship. The Spirit and the Bride say, “come.” It is the Spirit that causes the Church to say to Jesus, “come.” Come, Lord Jesus.
In this Holy Mass, Jesus indeed comes to us. He comes to us under the appearance of simple bread and wine, but he is truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar. As he has promised, he will not leave us as orphans, but will be with us to the end of the age.
Let us praise the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who lives within us and guides us to all truth.