14 May 2023

Do not receive the world's rejection

6th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

This Ole English Professor would like to note that there are a whole lotta verbs working in the readings this morning. Proclaiming, hearing, crying out, curing, rejoicing, receiving, praising, giving, suffering, loving, keeping, remaining, asking, seeing, loving, revealing. And my favorite verb of them all: being. It warms my Grammatical Heart to hear so many nouns verbing and so many direct objects receiving the action! Yes, there's a lot going on. As it should be. Jesus is leaving the disciples. He's not abandoning them. He makes that clear. But he is leaving. You can almost feel the anxiety vibrating off the disciples at this news. The near panic at being left to fend for themselves – w/o a teacher, w/o a shepherd, w/o direction. It must've been brutal for them. And, no doubt, Jesus feels their terror. So, he promises, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth...I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” That Spirit comes to us at Pentecost. And remains with us still – proclaiming, loving, revealing, fortifying, and just being.

One of the first lessons I teach seminarians in my preaching classes is to always present the Gospel using present-tense, active verbs. This is harder than you might think. We're reading about events that happened centuries ago. Jesus healed the sick. He died and rose again. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. Historically accurate, yes. But not exactly thrilling. Using past-tense verbs leaves us the distinct impression that these events are one and done. Over. And in some sense that's true. Jesus doesn't die more than once. Nor does he resend the Spirit when necessary. But thinking about our life in Christ as an historical account, something that happened long ago and far away, can lead us to believe that we are merely Readers About the Faith, latecomers to the glories of the Gospel who are charged with occasionally dusting off the text and wondering what it was like “back then.” Philip urges us: “Always be ready to give an explanation...for your hope.” Does our explanation go something like this: “Well, you see, there's this story where this guy Jesus teaches about love and then dies on a cross and now we get together once a week to read about his life.” Is that our hope? A story? A weekly get-together to catch up on life? 'Cause if it is, we're the biggest dupes to draw breath since Adam and Eve trusted a talking snake!

Fortunately, we're not dupes. We're not dupes b/c we do not believe that our faith is based on a book, a story. We have a book – lots of books – and we have a story, a powerful, life-giving story. But books and stories don't create great saints, faithful-to-the-end martyrs, or hope-filled witnesses to the truth. Jesus promises his disciples that they will not be left orphaned. He promises to send them the Spirit of Truth. Not a trendy ghost who will show them how to negotiate with the powers of the world for approval. Not a spirit of individual empowerment or a spirit of collectivist subservience. Not a spirit of cowardice, compromise, or corruption. But a Spirit of Truth. An abiding, enduring, on-going Spirit of Love who clarifies, sharpens, and focuses our witness in and to a world determined to commit suicide just for the fun of it...and take us with it. Jesus tells his disciples that the world cannot and will not accept this Spirit. Why? Because the world “neither sees nor knows him.” The world neither sees nor knows this Spirit b/c it does not know the Father. In fact, the world has rejected the Father. It has rejected His fatherhood, His guidance, His discipline, His creation, and so, it must also reject His children. The Spirit of Truth teaches us even now: do not receive the world's rejection!

That's right. Do not receive the world's rejection. Don't worry about opposition. Don't worry about embarrassment or ridicule or persecution. What's the saying? You know you're over the target when you start getting flak. Amen. Bring to bear the faith's most devastating weapon against the Spirit of the Age: veritas in caritate. Truth in love. A 500 gigaton bomb, 500 billion tons of truth dropped in love. Not a “once upon a time” fairy-tale told in the past-tense. Not a philosophical system or theological method. Not a bureaucratic institution with policies and procedures. And certainly not a global process-meeting with predetermined outcomes. Truth in love. The universal solvent for all the world's illusions, lies, and death-dealing vices. Do not receive the world's rejection. It's what the world wants. It needs you and me to abandon it to its suicidal/homicidal tendencies. That's not what the Spirit of Truth demands of us. Whoever observes my commandments loves me. [So] I give you a new commandment: love one another. Present-tense, imperative, active voice. Love one another. 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->