Sunday, April 27, 2008

Is He living in you?

(6th Sunday of Easter-Year A; This homily was given on 26 & 27 April, 2008 at St. Mary's Church, Cranston, R.I.; See Acts 8:5-17 and John 14:15-21)

I am sure you have noticed that ad campaigns for various products have become very simplified over the years. Slogans like “Got Milk” and “Just Do It” catch our attention and are easy to remember. The ad for Gatorade is one like that. It simply asks the question: “Gatorade. Is it in You?”

The inference is clear: if it’s not in you, then it should be! But whether we drink Gatorade or not, I think we would all agree that we have to be very careful what kind of food or drink we put inside our bodies. Some things are good, and some things are not. What we choose to put inside us can mean all the difference between living a healthy life, or an unhealthy one; it can even make the difference between life and death.

The same is true when it comes to our spiritual lives.

What we allow into our spiritual lives and into our souls can mean all the difference between a healthy, living and growing relationship with God or a very unhealthy one. Our first reading this weekend gives us a glimpse of this very reality.

We hear in the Acts of the Apostles how Philip has taken the City of Samaria by storm. He preached the gospel to them, and the most remarkable things were beginning to happen. We are told that:

With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs that he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city.
—Acts 8:6-8

Philip preached the gospel with great power. He healed the sick. He cast out unclean spirits. Yet after all these amazing things, we discover that it was not enough! There was still one more thing that was missing.

The apostles in Jerusalem heard what had happened in Samaria, and they sent Peter and John, who prayed for the people, “that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17). It wasn’t enough to clear out the unclean spirits. These people were in need of the Holy Spirit. And that’s exactly what they received.

God wants to do so much more than drive away evil and take away the things that harm us; he wants to give us Himself. We can ask the question this weekend: The Holy Spirit: Is He in you?

In the gospel for this weekend, Jesus speaks about this very mystery of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He gathers together with His disciples on the night before His suffering and death, and it is clear that they are distressed about His imminent departure. He consoles them and insists that He will not abandon them, He will not leave them orphans.

“I will ask the Father,” He says, “and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.”
—John 14:16-17

Yes, they already know what it means to have an advocate in God, since Christ has been with them from the beginning. Now, He tells them, the Advocate will not only be with them, He will be “in” them. He is talking to them about the person of the Holy Spirit. God wants to live in us, to share with us His own divine life.

This weekend we are given a great example of that reality in our young people here in this parish. This Saturday morning, twenty six children received Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time. Jesus lives in them now in a whole new way.

Sunday afternoon thirty six young people will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, strengthening that bond with the Holy Spirit that they received on the day of their baptism. The bishop will stretch out his hands over these young people, calling down the Holy Spirit upon them, just as Saints Peter and John called down the Holy Spirit on the converts in Samaria in the Acts of the Apostles.

The Holy Spirit will be living and moving in their lives like never before, giving them the courage to witness to their faith in Christ in this world and to live fully the gospel and their baptismal call to holiness.

They remind us all this weekend of God’s plan for each and every baptized and confirmed member of the Church. God wants to use each one of us to make His message of mercy and grace known in the world we live in, but that will never happen if there are things in our lives which are opposed to the Holy Sprit. We will never be able to fully surrender our lives to God and be totally open to the work of the Holy Spirit if there are things “in us” that are opposed to the will of God.

What are some of those things?

Anger or hatred. If we are harboring resentment, anger or hatred towards any person or group of persons, and not allowing God to help us with that struggle, then the Holy Spirit will not be able to move us and guide us in the way He wants to. Anger, hatred, and bitterness, are all opposed to the Holy Spirit.

Pride. If we have placed ourselves above the people around us or looked down on others; if we have been so self centered that we have place everyone else beneath us or perhaps even placed God beneath us, then He will never be able to live in us the way He wants to. If we have decided to live our lives the way that we want to, without any regard for God and His commandments, without listening to God or the Church or anyone else, for that matter, that is pride. It is completely opposed to the docility God calls us to in the Holy Spirit.

What are the things in our culture that are clearly opposed to the life of the Holy Spirit in us?

Pornography. Researchers say that millions of Americans are now addicted to internet pornography ( Pornography damages the way we look at each other. It destroys our relationships with each other and can destroy our relationship with God. Have we allowed pornography into our spiritual lives?

Contraception. This is so prevalent in our society, although we hear so little about it with regard to the spiritual life. It is simply taken for granted that couples contracept, Catholic or not. But contraception stifles life in the family and banishes God from one of the most important parts of our lives: the relationship of love between a husband and a wife.

There is even a commercial on TV now that targets young people. It totes that this particular contraceptive will not only prevent pregnancy, but will also eliminate acne. This should concern every one of us. Contraception is opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

These are just a few of the things that so often squelch the life of the Holy Spirit in us. If these, or any grave or serious sins, are in us, then God wants them out. Why does He want them out? So that He can give us more of Himself! He wants us to be emptied of these unclean spirits so that He can then fill us with His own divine life and help us to live the way He always intended us to.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians, describes the kind of life we will have when that happens, when we are surrendered to the person of the Holy Spirit. He says that when we live by the Spirit we will bear fruit, and that:

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
—Galatians 5:22-23

Are not these the very things we long for in our lives? Joy. Is it in you? Patience. Is it in you? Generosity, faithfulness, self control. Are these things in us? We are called to live in the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit. May our lives this week become more and more completely surrendered to the Holy Spirit, who has been promised and sent into the hearts of all the faithful.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created
and you shall renew the face of the earth.