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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter Year C By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp

Acts 14:1-2, 22-29, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23, John 14:23-29

On the Gospel - Loving an Absent Jesus
In Africa young girls who consecrate themselves to God as nuns dress up as brides for a wedding and sing love songs to Jesus. A few years after such a religious ceremony, a young nun who had been having a rough time in her mission assignment comes back to the convent and asks the Mother Superior: “Mother, is it really true that we are spouses of Christ.” “Yes, it is true, my daughter,” replies the Mother Superior, “Why do you ask?” “Well,” stammered the young nun, “Since I was professed five years ago, I haven’t actually felt anything!”

Our poor nun may not have felt anything, yet she remains on the right track in understanding the relationship between Jesus and his devotees in terms of an intimate love relationship. When Jesus speaks in today’s gospel of “those who love me” he is referring to his followers. For Jesus “those who love me” is another way of saying “my disciples” or “those who believe in me” or simply “Christians.” The relationship between the Christian and Christ is essentially a love relationship. That is why Jesus said in John 15:15 “I do not call you servants any longer ... I call you friends.” Yet many of us feel more comfortable serving Jesus as boss rather than relating to him as a friend. There is a limit to what a boss can demand from you. There is no such limit when it comes to friendship and intimacy.

One thing we know about love is that lovers want to be with each other. But Jesus is not physically present. We cannot physically see him or touch him. This is the dilemma we see in the problem of the young nun. How can you love an absent Jesus? This is what today’s gospel is all about. In the gospel Jesus prepares his disciples, those who love him, for his departure from this world and shows them how they can keep love and intimacy alive even in his physical absence.

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23).
If you love Jesus, (1) Keep his word. Follow his teachings. (2) This will activate God’s special love for you, and (3) Jesus and his Father will come and live permanently with you. In this way the vacuum left by the physical absence of Jesus will be filled spiritually by the divine presence which is as real or even more real than the physical presence. Our part in this whole process is to focus on keeping the word of Christ.

But how do we be sure we know the implication and meaning of the word of Christ in the ever changing and ever more complex realities of modern life? How can we be sure what Jesus would do and how he would act in the present concrete situations of our daily lives? Again Jesus foresaw this difficulty and provided for it. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

If that is so, what do we make of the situation in the world today where a thousand Christians all “filled with the Holy Spirit” come up with a thousand different answers to the same question? Does the Holy Spirit contradict Himself? Here it is important to note that the “you” to whom these promises are made is plural, meaning, primarily, the community of believers, the church. Of course the Holy Spirit is with us individually, but the Holy Spirit is given primarily to the church and, through the church, to us as individuals when we become members of the church.

This is what we see in the 1st reading where disagreements among Christians are resolved through dialogue and community discernment and not through each one consulting the Holy Spirit privately. In the end they come out with a resolution which begins “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” (Acts 15:28). The word of Christ continues to live and resound in the word of the Holy Spirit speaking through the church. The days between the Ascension of Christ and Pentecost are special days of prayer for all Christians as they were for the first disciples of Jesus. This year let us pray especially for the gift of church unity, so that together we all can discern what the Spirit is saying to the church in the modern world and so bear united witness to the life-giving word of Christ.

On the Epistle -  The City of God
The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in the year ad 70 by the Roman army was the September-eleven of the Jewish nation of the time, and more. For the Jews the city of Jerusalem, adorned by the resplendent temple, was not just one of the wonders of the world, it was the very house of the Almighty God. God Himself ordered the building of the temple, God himself dictated every detail of the structure and decoration of the temple. It was God’s one and only house in the whole wide world. The navel of the earth, the umbilical cord connecting creation to the creator was located in the temple in Jerusalem. And God swore an everlasting covenant to uphold His people (the Jews), his city (Jerusalem) and His house (the temple). The early Christians thought that the fall of Jerusalem would be the end of the world. The idea of having a people of God without the temple never crossed their minds until the temple actually fell and world did not end.

As we approach the end of the of the Easter season, the church takes us to the last vision of John in Patmos, a vision concerning the last things. There we see God being true to His promises as he restores the holy city Jerusalem and its temple. This restoration, however, does not take place in the manner that the Jewish people of the time expected it. First, we see that in place of the material city that was built from the ground up, we now see a spiritual city coming down from above, “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10). Secondly, unlike the earthly Jerusalem with its irregular contours, the new city has a perfect square shape, four equal sides with three gates on each side. Finally, in place of the temple built with destructible brick and mortar, for the new city “its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (verse 22).

Seen against the background of Jewish expectations, John’s vision of the restoration of the holy city Jerusalem is saying two things. (1) God is always faithful to fulfill His word. When God says that His city is everlasting, God will see to it that His city is everlasting. Even when that city is utterly destroyed before our very eyes and all hope appears to be lost, God can always recreate the holy city out of nothing. This means that no matter how bad things may seem to be, in God there is always hope. What God has promised, God will fulfill by and by.(2) God does not always fulfill His word in the manner in which we expect it. We often expect God to fulfill His word to us in the material order, then God goes on and fulfills it in the spiritual order, and we fail to see it because we have our eyes trained only on the material horizon.

The visions of John in Revelation are a preview into eternity. There we see that God is true to his covenant promise never to abandon His people, His city, and His house. But God’s people, God’s city, and God’s house are now understood in a spiritual and not a material sense.

Many Jews at the time of Jesus failed to see the marvellous things God was doing in their midst because they were expecting God to act in one way and God was actually acting in another way. The problem was in their narrow expectations as to who could be the Messiah (must be a son of David!), where he could or could not come from (not from Galilee!), how the Messiah would appear (not through normal birth by a woman as a helpless baby!), and how he would liberate God’s people Israel (by defeating the Roman army of occupation). When God did it His own way and not their own way, they failed to get it. As Christians we fall into the same mistake when we allow ourselves to believe that God can use certain people and not other people, God can come into our lives in certain ways and not in other ways, God is in certain religious traditions and not in others.

Do you notice that in the new Jerusalem, there is no temple, no priesthood, no rituals, no laws, no religion. There is only God who is everything to everyone. May we never cease to wonder at the incomprehensible mystery of God unfolding before our very eyes in our world today.

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