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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B

Now that we have celebrated the Ascension, our focus shifts towards the

coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I mentioned during the notices last

weekend that the very first novena was when the apostles gathered together in

prayer with Our Lady and some of the other disciples for nine days between the

Ascension and Pentecost, praying as Jesus had instructed them to (see Acts

1:12-14 and Luke 24:49). They were not to go out immediately, but to wait for

the coming of the Holy Spirit. As it says in the psalms, “If the Lord does not

build the house, in vain do its builders labour” (Ps 126(127):1). It is the Holy

Spirit who builds up the Church.


The Holy Spirit is also the spirit of truth and unity. Division and disunity are

not the work of God, but of the evil one. Our readings today speak both about

the Holy Spirit, and also the fate of Judas, the “one who chose to be lost”. The

danger is always there; we have never got it made. We would like life to be

plain sailing, but there are challenges, and people change sides. In the Narnia

books, we discover in the final book that Susan has left them, although she’s no

Judas. I quote:


‘ “Sire,” said Tirian, when he had greeted all these, “If I have read the chronicle

aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is

Queen Susan?”

“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of

Narnia.” ’


Today in the first reading, we hear St Peter speaking about finding a

replacement for Judas, and under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy

Spirit, they choose Matthias. There were various times after the Ascension and

Pentecost when they had to rely on the Holy Spirit to show them the way

forward and also to sort out disputes and differences of opinion. The Church

today is no different, as the bishops still gather together with the Pope to

discuss matters affecting the Church and to discern the way forward.


There has always been disagreement between Christ and the world, and

therefore between the Church and the world. Today we listen to Christ’s prayer

to the Father as He says:


“I passed your word onto them,

and the world hated them,

because they belong to the world

no more than I belong to the world.

I am not asking you to remove them from the world,

but to protect them from the evil one.”


It was an uphill struggle being a Christian in the pagan Roman Empire. The

city of Corinth was a bit like the West today, with various different religions

and people deciding to choose a bit from one religion and a bit from the other.

If you were a Christian, you had to remove yourself from that and live by

Christ alone. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, and there is only one truth,

not many truths. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. There

can’t be both one God and many gods; Jesus can’t be both God and not God;

and there can be no false compromises. In the film The Most Reluctant

Convert, C S Lewis charts his conversion from being something of a lapsed

Anglican to atheism to then becoming a committed Anglican (I might add that

he had a few rather Catholic beliefs as well, such as concerning Purgatory). At

one point he is debating with friends, and one of them says to him that trying to

adopt a middle ground of saying Jesus was just a good man won’t work. He

claimed to be God. So either He is, or He was a madman. You can’t try and sit

on the fence.


It’s quite an interesting film, because his conversion happened in stages – it

wasn’t all at once. Sitting in his room, at one point God convinces Him that He

exists, and C S Lewis is dragged away from atheism, as the most reluctant

convert in the whole of England. But accepting that there is a God, he still

doesn’t accept all the rest yet, and J R R Tolkien and Lewis’ other friends still

have their work cut out.


We know how things end, and that, as a result of their belief in Christ, C S

Lewis produces the Narnia Chronicles, plus various other religious and

religion-themed books, and J R R Tolkien produces The Lord of the Rings,

which has the religious themes more deeply buried. We also know that the

Apostles went to spread the Gospel around the whole of the Roman Empire,

with every one of them being martyred apart from St John, who died of old age

after having written his Gospel and his three New Testament letters.


What lies ahead for us? That we do not know. But what we do know is our

need for the Holy Spirit, and to be faithful to the Lord and His Church. The

rest will have to simply unfold.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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