SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)
May 17, 2020

First Reading (Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17)

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs 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. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20)

Refrain: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

1) Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, "How tremendous are your deeds! (Refrain:)

2) Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name!"
Come and see the works of God, his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam. (Refrain:)

3) He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him. He rules by his might forever. (Refrain:)

4) Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness! (Refrain:)

Second Reading (1 Peter 3: 15-18)

Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.

Gospel (John 14: 15-21)

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, 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. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.

The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)

Homily

Entertaining Angels??

In our gospel passage today, Jesus assures his disciples, and us too as his followers, that he will not leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone. He would send us another Helper. One commentator that I read says the following:

Personally, I like the name Comforter, someone who gives us strength in difficult times. This makes sense to me since the commentator I quoted earlier notes that the word “paraclete” comes from the Latin “fortis”, from which we get the English word fortitude, or strength, which is one of the gifts of the Spirit.

If this is so, then I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to believe that the Spirit might take human form at times. For example, many people recount stories about experiences they have had which they describe as times in their lives when they were “entertaining angels”. What they mean by this phrase is that they have encountered people who have had a profound impact on their lives, people whom they least expected to have such an impact on them. And I’m sure that some of you who are animal lovers might swear that you have been affected similarly by our friends in the animal kingdom. Consider the following story. The author writes:

Now I need to give you a little bit of background about this story and I didn’t want to give it away ahead of time. I receive an email every day with a different story from the ever-growing list of Chicken Soup books. This story was one of them. Now many times I simply save the stories to my computer without ever reading them but, for some unknown reason, I read this one. What is also amazing to me is that I hate cats. (Okay, I know a deacon shouldn’t hate anything, so let’s just say that I "intensely dislike" them then!! Perhaps that would be a more "socially acceptable" way of putting it.) Over the last twenty-five years, my family has had three dogs - but no cats. They weren’t ever allowed in the house. So, given this background, why I ever read this story in the first place is beyond me. Perhaps that was the work of the Spirit too. Who knows?

In any case, this cat was able to provide the author and her father with comfort (did I just say that???). Who am I to deny that this might well have been the Spirit working through the behavior of this member of the animal kingdom (I really can’t bring myself to say the "c" word!). After all, her actions did “fit the bill”, so to speak. She provided comfort and strength to people in their time of need.

For each of us, whether we believe that we have ever “entertained angels” or not, we have to believe that the words that our Lord spoke to his disciples were also meant for us, to reassure us that we’ll never walk alone, to quote the title of that well-known song. But there is one very important point that we should make here: in today’s gospel passage, our Lord says “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you always”. Note that the coming of the Spirit does not just happen. Even our Lord says that he must ask the Father first. It is no different for us.

When we are discouraged in our lives, for whatever reasons, we need to pray to the Father to send his healing, comforting Spirit into our lives. Perhaps it will come in human form. Perhaps it will come in some other form. Or no form at all! But we have to believe that it will come. This is what our faith teaches us. May the Spirit of God be always with you.

References:
  1. From The Promised Helper in The Gospel of John, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Used with permission.
  2. Cat in Mourning from Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Cat's Life by Lynn Cole. Copyright 2011 by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, Cos Cob, CT.

(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

Homily #2

A Mother's Influence

In looking at today's gospel passage, there are three things which struck me. First of all, our Lord tells his disciples that he will send them the Paraclete. But who is this "Paraclete"? The Greek word from which our word "Paraclete" comes is "parakletos", which is really untranslatable. It has been rendered Comforter, or Helper. But the word in Greek has far more meaning than either of these translations. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of ways. A "parakletos" might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone's favor; he might be an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone under indictment for something which would result in a serious penalty if they were convicted; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation; he might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always a "parakletos" is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need.

We often talk of being able to cope with things. All too many years ago, I remember attending a play entitled "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope!" But that is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit: he takes away our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life. The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious living for defeated living. So what Jesus is saying is: "I am setting before you a hard task, and I am sending you out on a very difficult journey. But I am going to send you someone, the "parakletos," who will guide you as to what to do and enable you to do it." (1)

Secondly, our Lord assures his disciples that the Paraclete will remain with them. The most important gift that we can ever give anyone is the gift of our presence, the time we spend with others. I think this is well exemplified by the following story.

Just like the man in this story, in sending his Spirit, Christ is sharing the most precious gift which he can, the gift of his presence in our lives, just as he does in the Eucharist. When we encounter difficult times on our journey of life, the Spirit will be there to comfort and strengthen us if we just seek him. And where do we look for him? As Jesus told his disciples: "I will send the Spirit to be within you". So the Spirit can be found in our hearts, the source and resting place of all love. But if we let the Spirit into our lives, then we will soon discover that he is not just content with staying there. He will gradually influence our actions until they are a reflection of his presence in our lives and our lives will never be the same again.

To sum up: the Spirit which Christ sends into the world is the Comforter, the Helper, the one who helps us to cope in our times of need and the one who strengthens us when we are down. He will always be with us and he will always be within us. And he will influence all that we say and do.

When we speak of these qualities of the Spirit, it seems more than appropriate that we should do so on this special day of the year when we remember our mothers. First of all, just like the Spirit, they more than likely will have been our comforter and our helper. When we fell in the playground and scraped our knees, we would run to our mothers and she would give us comfort and wipe away our tears. Although this is not universally true for all mothers (after all, just like the rest of us, many mothers are far from perfect), more often than not, they have helped us in times of need and have strengthened us when we were down.

Secondly, our mothers will always be with us. Even after they have passed from this life, we will hold their memories in our hearts, just as the writer of this story does.

And lastly, our mothers are always within us. If I were to ask each of you individually who has exercised the most influence in your life, I'm sure that the vast majority of you would respond that it was your mothers. Good or bad, and sometimes even if we don't wish to acknowledge it, they have left an imprint on our lives like no one else has. One author spoke of his mother and to his mother this way:

Notice that this writer said that his mother's spirit was indelibly imprinted on all that he has been, all that he is, and all that he will ever be. So it is with the Spirit. Just like a mother should be, and as we discussed before, the Spirit is the comforter, the helper, the one who helps us to cope in our times of need and the one who strengthens us when we are down. He will always be with us and he will always be within us. And he will influence all that we say and do.

In conclusion, our final home is meant to be with Christ. But until we arrive there, he has promised to send us his Spirit to be with us always. And if that isn't enough, he himself will always be with us in the Eucharist. And until that day comes when he can take us in his arms and wipe away every tear, he has sent us our mothers to do the same. And all mothers, even those whose own mothers were far from perfect, should cherish and nourish their families and strive to be all that a mother should be, namely, the first example of love in the lives of their children. And, just like any true lover, they must be willing to sacrifice for their families, and sometimes even sacrifice their own lives. Just as the mother being led away to certain death in a concentration camp did. And just as our Lord did when he laid down his own life for us so that we might live with him forever in heaven.

References

1. From The Promised Helper in The Gospel of John, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Used with permission.

2. Roses for Mama, copyright 1977 by Gene Dobbins, Johnny Wilson, Wayne Sharp. Chappell & Co. Cited in THE TRIBUTE by Denis Rainey (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishes, 1994), p.106-107. Used with permission. (Quoted in The Mother Side of God from The Best of Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN 37922.)

3. Most Kids Are Born Only Once, copyright 1997 by Joseph C. Rosenbaum. From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, pp. 35-36. Copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff. Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with the explicit permission of the author. (Comments may be sent to him at chrisjos@aol.com.)

4. A Tribute to Mothers, copyright 1997 by David Weatherford. From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, pp. v-vi. Copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff. Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with the explicit permission of the author.

(Copyright 2011 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

Homily #3

Spirit of God Within Me

In today's gospel reading, we hear several themes which are key to John's gospel: discipleship, truth, obedience, and love. Our Lord states that a true disciple is one who proves his love by learning the truth about his commands through reflection and discernment, living the commands which he has learned through obedience, and loving one another, as the Lord's commands teach us. Let's look at these elements of discipleship more closely.

Truth is a favorite theme of John. It is John who recounts how when Pilate was interrogating Jesus that he asked him "What is truth?", but Our Lord gave no answer. Webster defines truth as what is real. In Greek, the words real and truth have the same root, alethes. But what is real? Is it the things of this earth or can it be something else?

The Greek philosopher Plato believed that everything on earth is a mere shadow of its perfect counterpart in an unseen world, one that is never subject to death. Every tree on earth is an imperfect image of the perfect tree, every flower is an imperfect image of the perfect flower in another world. Thus, he believed that even humans are imperfect replicas of another perfection.

So, in actuality, what we see, touch and hear is not real, it is not true. What is real is not of this world. As the Little Prince said, "What is important is invisible to the eye", it lies in the unseen world, the world of perfection, or the world of the Spirit. Christ is reality come to earth from the unseen world, whose teachings are revealed to us by the Spirit of truth. From this it proceeds that, since Jesus is no longer with us, we can only learn more and more about the truth, about what is real, what is perfect, what is unseen and unknown through constant reflection and meditation to discern the inspiration of the Spirit through the words of Jesus.

The discernment of the truth is not something which we have to do by ourselves. As the Lord has promised us in today's gospel, he will send the Spirit to reveal the truth to us, and we will celebrate that presence in our lives in a special way at Pentecost. The word "paraclete" in Greek stands for exactly this: someone who is an advocate for us, whom we call to be near us. It comes from the Greek roots "kaleo", i.e. to call, and "para", to be with or near, as in parallel, paralegal and para liturgy. This is an important point. Even Our Lord says in this gospel passage that he will ask the Father to send the Spirit. So too it is with us: we must call the Spirit to be with us through prayer. The Spirit does not come unless we ask.

Once we have discerned what is right, we must put it into practice through obedience. Our Lord reiterates over and over again in the gospels that discipleship requires obedience. Luke gives us that powerful example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father that "this cup be taken from me, but not my will, but yours, be done". This obedience demanded the ultimate sacrifice of his life and demonstrated beyond a doubt his love for the Father.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend". If we - as Christ's disciples who call ourselves by his name, i.e., Christians - seek the truth through reflection and obey the commands Christ taught us in the gospels, then we can only demonstrate our obedience through love, the greatest of all the commandments. Thus, these three aspects of discipleship are like a constantly revolving circle: we learn the truth through reflection, we live out the commands we learn through obedience and especially in our love of one another. Our failures at loving one another should lead us back into further reflection, obedience and additional attempts to love others as Christ taught us.

There is a song which I think speaks very eloquently of the themes we have just discussed.

The image Adam lost is the image of God, since that is the image in which we were created, i.e., the image of perfection. We must constantly strive to polish this tarnished image and regain it through reflection on the truth which Our Lord has shown us.

The "inward eye" which is blinded by sin is the ability to see the truth in all that we do each and every day of our lives by instinct. Unfortunately, due to sin, we cannot see the truth without actively learning and relearning it through reflection on the gospels, which is, "the truth made known to all in Christ".

These are powerful words, words which deserve our reflection in their own right. As we noted before, love is the greatest command. It breaks through sin and selfishness and enables us to care for others as we would like to be cared for, as Jesus showed he cares by making the greatest sacrifice of all, his life. If our Creator and Lord should come down to earth to show his love by becoming one like us, how much more incumbent it is on us to love one another, who are merely our equals, not our creations. Speaking of life, the song concludes with the following verse:

If we are to be Christ's disciples, we must reflect on his word, learn the truth as it is taught to us in the gospels, obey his commands, love one another, and thus live a life full of the Spirit and a near-perfect image of God. We cannot probably make a better prayer than this: to see truly, to obey constantly and to love always. Or, in the words of the song from the musical Godspell: "Day by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly day by day".

Reference:

1. Spirit of God Within Me. Music by J. Michael Joncas. Copyright 1985 by GIA Publications, 7404 S. Mason Ave., Chicago, IL 60638. Words copyright 1968 by Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Choral number G2831 from the album God of Life and God of Living.

(Copyright 2008 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friend noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)

May 17, 2020

Penitential Rite

Lord Jesus, you sent your Spirit to be with us always. Lord, have mercy.

Christ Jesus, you sent your Spirit to be within us always. Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you sent your Spirit to comfort and strengthen us on our journey of life. Lord, have mercy.

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)

May 17, 2020

Prayers of the Faithful

Celebrant: Christ has assured us that his Spirit will be with us always. Therefore, in confidence, we bring our needs to the Father.

Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, send us your Spirit".

That the leaders of the Church will be living examples of the Spirit in our midst, we pray to the Lord.

That the leaders of the nations of the world will do all in their power to eliminate terrorism from the face of the earth and return the kidnapped girls in Nigeria to their families, we pray to the Lord.

That the elderly, the sick and the handicapped may come to see the work of the Spirit through our loving concern, we pray to the Lord.

That those who have lost a loved one due to violence may come to reconciliation, forgiveness and peace through the work of the Spirit, we pray to the Lord.

That all of those who have contracted the Coronavirus will be healed of their illness, that all of those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior and that their families will be strengthened in their grief by their faith we pray to the Lord.

For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Loving Father, you sent your Spirit to renew the face of the earth and to strengthen and comfort us in our times of need. Hear these prayers which we offer to you today and grant them through the intercession of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.