Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Jesus covers a lot of theological ground in his farewell address to the disciples. There's lots of room in heaven, many permanent mansions. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Believe in me and the do the works that I do. Mine is the only name under heaven that can save you. Love me, one another, and keep my commandments. Remain in my word and ask for what you need. The world hates you b/c it hated me first. You are no longer slaves but friends. I am sending you the Advocate will who convict the world of its wickedness. That's a lot of very heavy information to take in at the dinner table! Then Jesus drops this little bomb on his friends, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” There's more?! Indeed. Much more. And you cannot bear the weight, the burden of knowing it all at once. How will the disciples learn what Jesus has yet to tell them? He says, “. . .the Spirit of truth [. . .] will guide you to all truth.” And when he speaks, “He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” Can we—in 2012—bear to hear to what the Spirit of Truth has to teach us?
This is the point in the homily where I remind you—for the thousandth nagging time—that Jesus left behind a lot of promises. Not one of those promises included a vow to leave us with a comfortable, middle-class, suburban religion; or a complex, intellectually satisfying system of wisdom; or a workable economic/political agenda for fair wealth distribution. He promises those who follow him persecution, arrest, trial, torture, execution, and the world's unrelenting hatred. He also promises eternal life. . .but that comes after the persecution and death part. I'm reminding us of these unhappy truths b/c the Spirit of Truth, the Advocate, was sent to the apostles so that the Church could be born, born in fire and wind and speaking many tongues all at once. Many tongues, speaking the same truth: repent, turn to God, and receive His mercy. Preaching to the pagans in Athens, Paul, says, “God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will judge the world with justice. . .” Can we bear up under the promise that divine judgment is coming? Is this a truth we are ready to hear?
We could spend the next decade dissecting scripture, magisterial documents, and papal teaching, searching for what “divine judgment” really means. Does it mean that each soul faces God's judgment after death? Does it mean the violent apocalypse that our evangelical brethren love to write novels about? But these are questions for leisure moments. Right now, the Spirit of Truth is revealing Christ's heart to his Church just as he revealed it Paul on the Areopagus: the era of ignorance has ended and the proclamation of the Father's mercy has been made. The worship of idols—money, power, prestige, celebrity, influence, intellect—these idols and our worship of them cannot bring us to God. The Spirit of Truth reveals even now that we live and move and have our being in God, and to offer our love—itself a gift from God—to the passing things of this world is like tossing an anchor in sand. Loving things feels weighty but there's nothing there to hold the anchor, to stop us from drifting with the deadly tides. Christ promises eternal life to those who love him and will follow him. To the cross, the grave, and on to feasting table in heaven. He bears our sins; therefore, listen to the Spirit of Truth: repent, receive his mercy, and return to righteousness.
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