MANY of us I suspect enjoy a good legal drama: Perry Mason, Rumpole, Kavanagh QC or Judge John Deed for example. There is something about legal argument, making a case, standing up for what is right, especially against huge odds which is inspiring and heroic. Most of us would not know where to start if faced with such a situation. However, this is exactly what St Peter calls each and every one of us to be prepared to do in today’s Epistle. We are to be ready:

‘to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1Peter 3:15)

There are people who are not well-disposed towards the Christian Faith, indeed many nowadays are even hostile. This was also the situation when St Peter wrote his letter. Then Christianity was illegal, now it is not. But we still have to explain to people why Jesus matters to us, and why we believe in Him. We are called to communicate to others how, through His Death and Resurrection, Christ offers new life to all who believe in Him.

‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit’ (1Peter 3:18)

For us to be convincing, we need both the reasoned argument of the law, and something else. That something is the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel Our Lord promises His disciples that they will be given the Spirit as their helper. 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:15-17)

The gift of the Spirit is predicated on the fact that the disciples love Jesus and keep His commandments. If we love Him we will keep His commandments. We will love God, and each other, with the same costly self-giving love that Jesus shows on the Cross. To be a Christian is to imitate Christ, to fashion our lives so that they resemble His life. As Christians, we have a responsibility to keep God’s Word, to love God and each other. In turn, God promises to dwell with and in us. This is the promise of a close relationship. We experience this intimacy most fully in the Eucharist, (also known as Holy Communion) where Christ gives Himself to us, so that we can be transformed by Him. Out of love, He heals our wounds, restores our relationship with God and each other, and gives us a foretaste of Heaven in the here and now.

Our Lord promises the Holy Spirit so that we may live in Him and He in us:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (Jn 14:18-19)

God gives Himself to us, so that we might live in Him, filled with the love which is the bond of unity between God the Father and God the Son. We are not left on our own, instead we are united with God, so that we may be strengthened and encouraged to live the life of faith both now and in Heaven. This is a cause for joy and celebration. God offers us life, and life in all its fulness.

As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven (on Thursday evening), we also look forward to the Sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Christ rises and ascends so that we can receive the Spirit, and experience the fulness of new life in Him. God sends the Holy Spirit so that we may be filled with love, and share that love with others. The Spirit helps us to keep close to the Father and the Son, in a profound relationship which allows us to flourish. Christ’s followers are strengthened by the Spirit to proclaim and share our faith, our hope, and our love.

In today’s first reading we hear of the work of the Spirit healing the people of Samaria, and being poured on those who were baptized and prayed over by the apostles. In the same way the Holy Spirit comforts us, and gives us strength. When we trust God to be at work in us, then wonderful things can — and do — happen. Such is the Divine generosity at the heart of our faith. In God’s strength, and not our own, we can do marvellous things. Christ chooses us, and not we Him. God takes the initiative, not to force us but so that we may be drawn out of love to come with Him, on our pilgrimage of faith. In this we are strengthened by the Bread of Life, the bread for the journey, walking in the footsteps of Love. In Christ we have communion, fellowship. In Him true community is born, through which we are reconciled to God and each other. This gives us the strength to share in the proclamation of the Good News, walk the pilgrimage of faith, and be fed and transformed by grace.

So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray earnestly for the gift of the Spirit, that God may fill us with His love and equip us to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. May we encourage others to come to know and love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed all, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.

James Tissot – The Last Sermon of Our Lord (Brooklyn Museum)

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