These weeks of Easter Season,
we’ve marked the time,
as the first reading says, that
Jesus was with his Apostles,
after his resurrection.
Now, think of this from their point of view:
Everything was great,
then Jesus is arrested and killed!
It’s all over!
Then, he rises from the dead—wow,
now they have him back,
better than ever!
You can imagine
that they’d want to keep that going?
But the Lord has still bigger plans.
We heard him say: "Wait for the Promise:
I’m going to send the Holy Spirit"!
Bigger and better!
Let me share with you
something from the early Church,
from Pope St. Leo the Great.
Pope Leo tells us, it is on these events
that our faith is "firmly established,
so that God’s grace may show itself
still more marvelous when,"
in spite of Jesus going out of our sight,
our "faith does not fail, hope is not shaken,
love does not grow cold."
What keeps our faith from failing
and our hope unshaken?
The Gift of the Holy Spirit—that is the key!
Do we want him to return? Of course!
That’s the Spirit in us, thirsting for Jesus!
But the Lord had something
bigger and better in mind:
And so, Pope Leo said,
"our Redeemer’s visible presence
has passed into the sacraments"!
It takes faith,
it takes the Gift of the Holy Spirit,
to know and recognize
Jesus, our God and our brother,
in the sacraments:
baptism, confession, confirmation;
in the healing sacrament of anointing;
in a married couple,
in bishops, priests and deacons,
and above all, in the Holy Eucharist!
Before the Apostles
received that Gift of the Spirit,
they looked up:
Jesus, don’t leave! Jesus, come back!
But after they received the Gift,
they didn’t look upward;
and they didn’t look inward;
They looked outward:
they went out to the world!
Where was Jesus? They knew his presence!
They knew he was acting powerfully in them!
That is what the Holy Spirit does for us;
and for others, through us!
Now, I want to quote Pope Leo again;
but you might wonder, why him?
Because a lot of folks are challenging
whether our faith is really built on solid facts.
People are saying, "you can’t trust the Church;
you can’t trust the Gospels;
the events of those times
are dark and muddled—
nobody really knows!
You need to know—you have a right to know—
that that is NOT TRUE!
I’ve been doing a Bible study
on Genesis recently.
But if you want, down the road,
we could look at this:
You have the right to know
how solid a foundation
our faith has!
If you were never told that, I’m sorry;
And I’m sorry there are folks out there
lying to you about these matters.
That movie that’s playing?
It is a lie; it is an assault on your faith.
As Father James Martin
of America Magazine said,
"The only way [that movie]
could have been any more anti-Catholic
is if they would have slapped a subtitle saying
‘the Catholic church is evil’
throughout the whole movie."
You’ll see something
attached to the bulletin;
Anyone who wants to look further at this,
let me know!
So why quote Pope Leo?
Because he lived at the time that supposedly
"the great cover up" was hatched!
He was a lot closer to those great events;
and, like millions before and since,
he had to pay a great price for this faith!
When following Jesus Christ brings risk,
sacrifice, ridicule or persecution,
you have to decide:
Is this real? Is this worth it?
Here’s more from Pope Leo:
"Our faith is nobler and stronger
because sight has been replaced
by a teaching whose authority
is accepted by believing hearts,
enlightened from on high…
strengthened by the gift of the Spirit."
This faith "would remain unshaken
by fetters and imprisonment, exile and hunger,
fire and ravening beasts,
and the most refined tortures
ever devised by brutal persecutors.
"Throughout the world
women no less than men,
tender girls as well as boys,
have given their life’s blood
in the struggle for this faith.
It is a faith that has driven out devils,
healed the sick, and raised the dead."
This is the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is what impels us to share:
To share the troubles of others around us,
and to share our hope of salvation!
To reach across boundaries,
such as the railroad tracks
that no longer cut through Piqua,
but still separate people!
You and I share Jesus Christ
with everyone around us;
we don’t have to look for him,
we know where he is!
We have him in our midst!
He is our mercy! He is our life!
And that is so powerful,
so freeing, so awesome—
How can we not share it?