Sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension
delivered by Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
In his epistle St. Peter exhorts us to be prudent and watchful in our prayers. We follow this important advice of St. Peter when we are disciplined in our prayer life. If in other aspects of our life we are disciplined like in our work or in our in doing our physical exercises so with more reason we should be disciplined in our personal relations with God. Our plan of life that should include a significant amount of time dedicated to elevate our minds and hearts to God. It is in prayer that we ask for and we experience the light of the mercy of God. We ask for this mercy marking our total dependence from God. In prayer we grow in Charity towards God and towards our fellow men starting with our fellow Christians.
He underlines the fundamental importance of mutual charity between Christians. Charity has to have an order and St. Paul reminds us, that we have to “do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.” (Gal. 6:10) St. Thomas also speaks of the order of charity taking into account the duties of our state in life. The members of our family and our Church have a reasonable expectation that we would give priority to support them. As a matter of fact the mutual support between Christians will be a strong argument in favor of the truth of what we preach. St. Peter also makes a direct quotation from the Book of Proverbs, “Hatred stirs up disputes, but love covers all offenses.” (Prov. 10:12) This Proverb contrasts the damaging effects of hate with the healing powers of love which builds up and restores relationship. But it has to be true love based in the truth. We cannot build a solid community if we paper over the differences and we leave outside the truth. The best form of love is to present the truth as it has been constantly taught by the Church through the centuries. Obviously we have to make an effort to present the truth in a rational and attractive way but without entering into any sort of comprises with the diverse ideological fashions of contemporary society that would water down the truth.
He underscores that those who have received special talents from the Lord, have to use these gifts for the service of the community. Charisms are given as personal gifts for the benefit of the community. They unite us with the mission of the Holy Spirit to build up all the members of the Church and to bring them to salvation. The constant teaching of the Church distinguishes between sanctifying grace which impart the gift of personal union with God, and charismatic or ministerial graces that gives us special talents to be of service to the community. These graces are called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.” At the same it should be evident that we cannot be of real and lasting service to the community if we do not have sanctifying grace because we are not living in the truth according to the teachings of our faith.
In the Gospel the Lord speaks about the double testimony that will be given about Him by the Holy Ghost and by the Apostles. The Holy Ghost will give testimony about Christ because as the third person of the Holy Trinity He proceeds from the Father and the Son. The outward mission of the Spirit in history is a reflection of the procession of the Spirit in eternity. This is expressed in the Nicene Creed, which says that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The Apostles will testimony about Christ because they were with Christ since the beginning. As a matter of fact when it became necessary to fill the position of Apostol vacated by the betrayal of Judas one of the main conditions placed to elect another person was that he should have been with the apostles since the beginning. Before the Apostles proceed to fill this sad vacancy, St. Peter stated that it was necessary that the one elected should be a “men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (At. 1:21-22)
Afterwards Christ makes a precise prediction about all the persecutions that the apostles were going to suffer after His departure. With regards to the immediate situation after the Ascension of Christ what Christ is indicating is that Christian will be excommunicated from the fellowship of Israel. More so Christians would be considered apostates and according to a rabbinic meditation on the Phineas episode of book of Numbers (25, 1-13) to slay apostates from Judaism is to sacrifice unto the Lord. Even if this prophesy makes reference to the situation existing in the Holy Land at the times of Jesus and in the first decades in the history of the Church it is a prophesy that applies to all times in the history of the Church. We should not be surprised if we are persecuted, if the master was persecuted it is totally reasonable that we that we who try to be his disciples should also be persecuted. In His fundamental speech on the Beatitudes at the beginning of his public ministry Jesus reminded us: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5: 10-12) We should consider the millions of Christian that have suffered persecution and martyrdom in the twentieth, starting with the Armenian genocide and the thousands that today are suffering this same fate in many countries dominated by Muslims. We should not live a side the risk of persecution that it is looming in the U.S. with the growing social pressure to accept the abomination of the so called homosexual marriage.
As we continue to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost let us continue with fidelity to keep praying the Novena that will prepare us to receive the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit. In these hard times we should always ask for all the gifts because all are necessary but in particular for the fear of the Lord and fortitude.
The apostles and the disciples prayed this first Novena of the Holy Ghost under the inspiration and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary let us ask for her inspiration and guidance as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you.