Sunday 8th May 2016
for Sunday after Ascension
St Francis of Assisi Church
Llay LL12 0NT
As on the day of the Ascension, the eyes of the Apostles are turned toward heaven, where they saw their Master disappear , and their hearts sigh after Him. As long as we are on our earthly pilgrimage, far from God, He must be the constant yearning of our souls. But we should not remain idle while we are waiting to go to our fatherland. In the Epistle of the day, Peter teaches us what we must do to make our life on earth a real preparation for our meeting with God: “Watch in prayers. But before all things, have a constant mutual charity among yourselves.”
This is exactly what the Apostles did as they waited for the Holy Spirit: together in the Cenacle they were persevering in prayer in the unity of fraternal love . God does not look with favour on the prayers and sacrifices of one who does not love his neighbour no matter who he maybe — with sincere benevolence. Jesus has expressly said: “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother that anything against thee; leave there thy offering... and go first to be reconciled to thy brother.” Prayer alone will not suffice to draw down divine graces, nor will it acquire eternal life for us. Fraternal charity, the surest pledge of the sincerity of our love for God, is an absolute requisite. The holy Spirit, who is the spirit of charity, who is substantial love, cannot enter a heart which is narrow and mean in its relations with its neighbour; lack of charity is one of the greatest obstacles to His action, because it is directly opposed to His essence. Just as water paralyzes the action of fire, so does lack of charity paralyze the action of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, as long as we live on earth, we are all liable to fall; all of us, therefore, need pardon; “charity,” says the Epistle, “covers a multitude of sins.”
In today’s Gospel Jesus reiterates His promise concerning the descent of the Holy Spirit: “When the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father... you shall give testimony [of Me].” As on the day of His Ascension, He connects the coming of the Holy Spirit with the mission of the Apostles, that mission which will consist essentially in giving testimony of Christ. “You shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit... and you shall be witnesses unto Me... even to the uttermost part of the earth” Today’s Gospel explains the scope of this testimony which the Apostles, as well as all future Christians, will be called upon to give.
“They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh that hosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.” Jesus died on the Cross to give testimony to the Father; His disciples will have to suffer, undergo persecution, and even death itself, to give testimony to Him.
We cannot follow a road different from the one which Jesus has trodden: “If any man will come after Me, let him take up his cross and follow Me”. He repeats to us. A calm, tranquil testimony, which is made without facing danger will always have only relative value and ordinarily gives no guarantee of its genuineness or its strength; on the contrary, the more it costs, the greater its
value in proving the fidelity o f him who renders it .
To witness to Christ, without regarding the difficulties, sufferings or struggles that may be encountered, is the program of the true Christian. But who will give us courage? To us as to the Apostles, courage will come from the Holy Spirit, from His gift of fortitude; it will come from assiduous meditation on the example which Christ has given us; it will also come from His own words, spoken of coming persecutions: “I have told you these things, that you may not be scandalized in Me.”
Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen,