6th Sunday of Easter (C); May 1, 2016
Acts 15:1-2,22-29 Ps 67 Rv 21:10-14 Jn 14:23-29
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison
In today’s Gospel, we heard a passage from Jesus’ farewell discourses. Our Lord is giving his last thoughts as a spiritual guide to the apostles before he enters his Passion and Death. Today’s reading makes it very clear that Christian faith is completely grounded in the relationship of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. God is Love and the Father, who is Lover, pours himself co-eternally into his Beloved Son, who does the same. And, in that mutual loving, the Holy Spirit comes forth. And, what is so remarkable is that God, who needs absolutely nothing from us, wants us to share in this Triune Love now and forever.
This is the starting point of our lives and it is the point to which everything must lead: loving God with our whole hearts and souls and being Jesus’ disciples by living the Gospel. That’s it brothers: that’s what our lives are about.
In order to stay focused on our purpose and destiny, we must adhere to a spirituality, where we encounter Jesus Christ, who is the Way home, who is the truth of who God is and who we are, and who is Life itself. So, we draw from Christ’s Life, who is this inexhaustible well- spring that nurtures us, strengths us so that we may become a human being fully alive. That’s why we attend to our spiritual formation: we go into the Quiet in the morning and evening and become still so that we know that God is present. We study and reflect upon Sacred Scripture in which the Word penetrates our Mind, forms our heart, and gradually transforms our very being into the likeness of Christ. On Sundays, we gather to give God praise and glory and to receive his sacred Body or a spiritual blessing. We link up with our brothers during the week for faith-sharing. In these base communities you see how an intense loving relationship with Jesus unfolds. As the Lord promises, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am present.” Brothers, I give thanks how you are striving to advance in holiness; that you don’t rest content to be a mediocre Christian.
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is understanding: to know what is essential as opposed to what is on the surface. The passage from the Acts of the Apostles also speaks about what is essential. In the early Church there was immediately a need to discern what was essential about being a Christian, about following Christ, and what was not. There was a big conflict that was not resolving itself. So, the apostles and the other elders held a meeting in Jerusalem, which was the first Council of the Church, to discuss the problems which arose when the Gospel was proclaimed to the Gentiles. Keep in mind, that the early Christians were largely Jews who accepted Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. These Jewish Christians believed that Gentiles should first embrace Judaism, including dietary practices and circumcision.
This Council really got down to the nitty-gritty to better understand what is essential: namely, belief in Jesus who died and rose for our sins, and striving to love him as he loves us. Notice how the issue was resolved: it didn’t come from without, but from within the Church. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we have a summary of what they decided: Listen: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us not to place upon you any burden beyond these necessities, namely to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell!” (Acts 15;28-29).
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church was able to resolve this conflict, which had put the fledging Christian community at the crossroads. And, through your baptism you have been initiated into the Church, which is not essentially an institution, but is a living organism: indeed, it is the living, breathing Body of Christ, which you are part. This is incredible! You live your faith not in isolation but in solidarity with the whole universal Church. So, love the Church! Let yourself be guided by her. In your fellowship here at Folsom Prison be a “lung of faith” of Christian life, be a breath of fresh air in a stagnant atmosphere of fear, cynicism, and boredom.
There’s another dimension which must distinguish us: embrace a missionary spirit. By virtue of your baptism into the Church you share in the same mission of Jesus to bring salvation to the world and proclaim the Good News. You do that within the culture you reside, which, for the time being, is Folsom Prison. People are very observant in this yard; they can sniff out hypocrisy and superficial piety. Live your life that gives witness that Jesus is Lord, that He is Risen! Let your simple behavior point to the Paschal Mystery: that Jesus suffered, died, and rose from the dead to redeem us. We need to continually remind ourselves and our community, that Jesus is the center of our lives, that our lives revolve around him. And, how do we follow Jesus? We do so through the concrete path of our daily lives so that he can transform us here and now.
Brothers, you are Jesus’ hands and feet; you are his ears and mouth. Each one of you, every member of this faith community is a missionary to the extent that you bring to others what you have received in generous abundance. That’s why you strive to live the Gospel and testify to God’s love for everyone, regardless of their circumstances and what they have done in the past. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness. Don’t be afraid to be a missionary of mercy, especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Let others know that God always forgives us, always awaits us, and loves us dearly.
That’s it brothers: let us ask the Lord for the strength to enthusiastically evangelize, to love the Church, and to be missionaries. Let us ask our Lord Jesus to direct our minds and hearts to him, so that we can be viable members of the Church, the Body of Christ. Let all that we do, our whole Christian life, be a joyful and luminous witness to his mercy and unconditioned love. Amen!