Homily — 7th Sunday Easter MMX C 5/16/10
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, my reward with me.
Jesus, who this past Thursday Ascended into Heaven, is coming soon back to us. On Pentecost Sunday He will come into the hearts of the disciples in the Upper Room, bringing them “His reward”, the Holy Spirit, with Him.
(St. Paul, incidentally, calls the Holy Spirit the “down payment” of that reward given to all who follow Jesus in this life. On judgment day, Jesus will “pay in full” each person according to his or her deeds.)
This time between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday is kind of a mini-Advent for the Church, it is a time of waiting for God to come to us in a more powerful way.
On Ascension Thursday Jesus told the disciples Go and make disciples of all nations . . . .but first, wait. Wait in the Upper Room and pray for the coming of my Holy Spirit.
And this “mini-Advent” period of waiting for the coming of God the Holy Spirit into the world was much shorter and much different than that other more well known Advent period of waiting for the coming of God the Son into the world.
According to Biblical History, which may or may not be literal, God’s People had to wait and pray about 9000 years before Jesus the promised Messiah was finally born for them in Bethlehem.
In contrast, the Disciples had to wait only 9 days for the promised Holy Spirit to come to them.
And furthermore, the Israelites had to wait all those years in darkness, with only the dim, obscure light of the Old Testament to guide them (which is why we wear dark colored, purple vestments the 4 weeks of Advent leading up to Xmas).
In contrast, the Disciples of Jesus waited those 9 days for the Holy Spirit with the blazing light of the Gospel to see by –
while they waited in the Upper Room they reflected and prayed on the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus, on His Passion and Death, on His Resurrection and Ascension, all of which enlightened their hearts and flooded the Old Testament Scriptures with light, revealing the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. (This is why during this “little advent” we’re now in, we don’t wear dark Purple but bright White Vestments.)
At the end of that 9000 year Advent, Christ was Born in Bethlehem. At the end of that 9 day Advent, Christ was Born again in the hearts of all believers.
And so my brothers and sisters, this mini-Advent time we are in between Ascension and Pentecost is for the Church and for us a time of intense prayer and waiting for the Holy Spirit to be born in a deeper way in our hearts.
I’ll end my homily by suggesting two practical ways you and I can prepare for the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost.
The first way is to pray the traditional Novena to the Holy Spirit I put on a pink sheet of paper at the doors of the Church (I give it out every year so you might have last years copy still as well). The Novena is a mini-course in who the Holy Spirit is and what He does for us as disciples of Jesus, which is everything!
The second way we can prepare for the Spirit’s coming is by imitating St. Stephen in today’s First Reading.
There are two ways we should imitate Stephen. First of all, the reading says Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit, we first need to be emptied of all Unholy Spirits, we need to be emptied of sinful attachments especially, but even non-sinful attachments we need to empty from our hearts, so that we will cling to God alone.
So during this mini-Advent, may we pray Jesus, empty me of any spirit of this world, empty my heart of any vain attachment, so that I may be filled 100% with Your Holy Spirit.
And secondly, the first Reading says Stephen in the midst of all his trials looked up intently to Heaven, never taking His eyes off that vision of Jesus His Lord there at the right hand of the Father.
As we prepare for the Holy Spirit’s coming, may we keep looking up to the Lord in the midst of trials we face. Too often we can let our eyes and hearts fall from looking at God and we then look only at the problems where in, and the next thing you know, we are drowning in our misery and problems.
Stephen kept his eyes fixed intently on God, and as the Acts of the Apostles said, Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father.
In the Creed and the Gloria we say Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and in every other New Testament passage but this we see the Ascended Jesus sitting on His Heavenly Throne.
But in this passage, Jesus sees his beloved disciple Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit, looking up intently to Heaven in the midst of great trials and persecutions, and Jesus like a basketball fan jumped up from His seat in Heaven and rooted Stephen on: “way to go Stephen! Keep going, your gonna win! ‘Atta boy!”
Stephen got a standing ovation from the Ascended Jesus, and for a reward, Jesus answered Stephen’s dying prayer and converted the man responsible for his death, Saul of Tarsus, soon to become the great St. Paul the Apostle.
And Jesus wishes to give us a standing ovation also, and cheer us on in fighting the good fight of faith, and answer our deepest prayers, if we only take seriously these 7 or 8 remaining days leading up to Pentecost.
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Come Holy Spirit!