Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sometimes I wonder just why I listen to some very Evangelical Programmes? I am not Evangelical in that sense, but I am a Gospel follower so 'evangelical' in another understanding! Yet listening to a very American dominated biblical led style of testimony, preaching and conversation, I am struck at the gap between what I know and understand is their very real belief that they have met Jesus, and my own, which is that I have not yet met him as they describe. This of course is only to be expected, my growth and understanding of Christianity is very much in that Catholic approach, where Scripture, the 'Living Tradition' of a community in liturgy, pastoral praxis, spiritual direction, strong theology, investigative thought and those many good works done for the sake of the Lord holds us together, as well as the living understanding that this family of God extends all the way back to the calling of the first Apostles and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost! You and I know that the Church exists to proclaim the Kingdom in our world, and that one glorious day all sacraments and church will cease when the Glorified Christ will come to judge the Living and the Dead.
All that aside, our faith cannot be static, one thing listening to these programmes has taught me is that if we keep returning to the mantra of we are sinner in need of repentance through the blood of Christ, we have missed, really missed, the diptych of the Cross and `Resurrection. Pre-baptismal catechesis of the Initiation Rites of the early Christian community stressed this need for moral change, but once baptised, once chrismated, once having received the food of immortality and medicine of the soul in the Holy Eucharist, the post baptismal catechesis was on revealing the 'mysteries' that living story of the Holy One's interaction with us now, 'Through Christ, With Christ, In Christ' in the Unity of the Holy Spirit' so that all glory and honour be offered and accepted from the 'Almighty Father'! So for me the journey of faith is an extension of discovering where and how the Ascended Christ, at the right hand of God, still connects with us in the here and now. For me the great key has always been the Spirit, the energy, and dynamism of the Holy Triune One in life. One has to remind oneself that the Spirit did not just 'come' at Pentecost, She was there anointing the Christ, present giving life at Creation, activating and sustaining the gifts of all who seek truth.
That to me is the way I find Christ, very much as Peter tells us: 'Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy'. (1 Peter 1:8)
For me, as I suspect for many of you, to follow Christ is to find him in 'the dearnesses of others' as Sr Agnes Day OCSO so beautifully describes the realisation of where Christ, is in her wonderful little book, Light in a Shoe Shop; 'They are all Yours-a million dearnesses, all different, yet all Yours and one in You. That's why I know I will recognise You, though I've never even dreamed Your face. I'll know in an instant Yours is the countenance I've been glimpsing through a thousand human lenses all my life'.
I sense that this monastic way has and will always be mine; it is pre-eminently the search of the Holy One, trying to discover Christ in the exigencies and story of life as we encounter it. I suppose that is why I will not have the immediate joy of meeting the Lord Christ just yet, but I am not afraid of that lack, I understand more and more, as I try to share with you all, the beauty and wonder of the aliveness of God through the Spirit here, now. Our first reading points this out in the way Stephen dies:'
'Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God' (Acts 7: 55) Isn't this what we too hope for, because all the images we have of Jesus now, will be transformed when we see Him face to face, but this can only be by that Spirit. None of them can satisfy, because the Ascended and Glorified Lord is yet to come, though we too will glimpse Him in the poor and needy, the hurt and bereaved of Uvalde, the fleeing civilians in Ukraine, the young, confused, wounded combatants doing other peoples biddings, the destroyed earth with its creatures we drive to extinction, yes all these are that glimpse of the dearness of Christ. But it takes the Spirit to pull down the barrier.
In his prayer that we see in John's Gospel, Christ prays the we, His gift, be one, that in trying to be one we may glorify the Holy One now and always on this little planet earth our home, and in doing so we may in this confused and hurtful world bring a glimpse of Christ's dearness,
'that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.'(Jn 17:26) This happens through the Spirit! May we, as we move towards Great Pentecost, be open day by day to the Spirit of Truth, our Advocate, Gift Giver, Faith Enabler, that being accepting of Her gifts we may know truly that Christ is, 'the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end'. (Rev 22:13)
Albert Camus in a letter:
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there's something stronger - something better, pushing right back.
Saint John Henry Newman
From Sermon 19, The Indwelling Spirit
3. St John adds, after speaking of "our fellowship with the Father and His Son:" "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." What is fullness of joy but peace? Joy is tumultuous only when it is not full; but peace is the privilege of those who are "filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." [Isa. xxvi. 3.] It is peace, springing from trust and innocence, and then overflowing in love towards all around him. What is the effect of mere animal ease and enjoyment, but to make a man pleased with everything which happens? "A merry heart is a perpetual feast;" and such is peculiarly the blessing of a soul rejoicing in the faith and fear of God. He who is anxious, thinks of himself, is suspicious of danger, speaks hurriedly, and has no time for the interests of others; he who lives in peace is at leisure, wherever his lot is cast. Such is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, whether in Jew or Greek, bond or free. He Himself perchance in His mysterious nature, is the Eternal Love whereby the Father and the Son have dwelt in each other, as ancient writers have believed; and what He is in heaven, that
He is abundantly on earth. He lives in the Christian's heart, as the never-failing fount of charity, which is the very sweetness of the living waters. For where He is, "there is liberty" from the tyranny of sin, from the dread, which the natural man feels, of an offended, unreconciled Creator. Doubt, gloom, impatience have been expelled; joy in the Gospel has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind. How can charity towards all men fail to follow, being the mere affectionateness of innocence and peace? Thus the Spirit of God creates in us the simplicity and warmth of heart which children have, nay, rather the perfections of His heavenly hosts, high and low being joined together in His mysterious work; for what are implicit trust, ardent love, abiding purity, but the mind both of little children and of the adoring Seraphim!
A Prayer in preparation for Pentecost
Christ our Morning Star that never sets,
Our Compass guiding us towards the Kingdom,
Whom we glimpse in so many others each day,
In the wounded and poor, the little and the lost,
In the hurting creatures of a badly treated world
Pour on us now the gifts of that Loving Spirit,
She who in all places and all things leads us to truth,
That in the midst of adversity we may strive for peace,
Where there is poverty reach out to share,
Where there is destruction to heal but also rebuild,
That in all things we may be Your disciples
Whose gift to others is the Love of the All Holy Three-in One.
Fr Robin Gibbons May 2022