Homily: 6th Sunday of Easter
Central in our readings today, the 6th Sunday of Easter, is the image of the Catholic Church. From the First Council of Jerusalem described in the Acts of the Apostles to John’s majestic vision of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God in the Book of Revelation, passing through Jesus’ characterization of the members of the Church as those who love Him by keeping His words, we may contemplate the reality of the Church as the People of God, being led and guided by the Holy Spirit to the fullness of truth, listening to God’s word and is enjoying the presence of the Holy Trinity in their midst. These are three fundamental truths about the Church:
First, the Holy Spirit guides Her to the fullness of truth. In the midst of today’s subtle but very real persecution against the Catholic Church, the message of today’s readings is very timely. Like in the first century, the Catholic Church today is also beset with various opposing doctrines. While Paul and Barnabas in the Council of Jerusalem were arguing fiercely against those who claim that new converts should follow the Law of Moses on circumcision, the Catholic Church today through the teachings of our Popes in the last decades has to contend against opposing doctrines on life, sexuality, marriage and family.
Real persecution, I mentioned, is very subtle in the sense that false doctrines are being pushed today in the public square, obviously to discredit the Catholic teachings on these matters. There is revolution today against the Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage. In Great Britain, a science professor was expelled from his job simply because he explained to his 11 year-old student that homosexual acts are sinful. Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell faces the risk of going to jail because he defended a Catholic school that fired a lesbian teacher who was living in with her woman lover. Today, if you want to express the truth about God’s teachings on morality, you will be called intolerant and imposing.
But the Catholic Church is simply doing Her job of teaching and forming the moral conscience of the society. “Woe to me if I don’t preach the Gospel”, says St. Paul. In Her mission to teach the people, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. It is very remarkable how the Acts of the Apostles expressed the presence and actuation of the Paraclete in the early Church: “We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary”. The Holy Spirit is present in the Church as if He were just one of the Council Fathers! How we wish that in our decision-making, especially this coming elections, we will all be guided by the same Spirit in choosing our candidates!
Secondly, the Church continues to listen attentively to God’s Word. The importance of listening to God’s word is emphasized in the Second Reading. In the New Jerusalem, that is, the Church in heaven, there will be “no need of the light of the sun or the moon, since God’s glory is its light and the Lamb is its lamp”. We are reminded of the words of Psalm 119: “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path”.
Do you still find enlightenment in God’s word? Do you still find it relevant to your life, to your projects and plans, in your decision-making? Do you still bother to read the Gospel every day to find out what God wants from you? When you are in doubt about your faith, do you still consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church to find some answers? I am sure the reason why there are lots of confusions today about morality and Church doctrines is the lack of seriousness in listening to God’s word and the lack of deeper understanding of our faith.
Who really is the mother of the twin, Margaux and Celine in Ina, Kapatid, Anak? The reason why this question is difficult to answer is that nobody bothered to check the Catechism, nos. 2376-2377, which says that techniques on surrogate motherhood are “gravely immoral. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children’ (Donum vitae II, 5)” (CCC, 2377). Once you violate the natural law on life, sexuality and family, confusions will definitely arise! To avoid confusion, let God’s word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
Thirdly, the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – dwells in the Catholic Church. Jesus made this promise in the Gospel: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make a room in his home”. St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and all the Fathers of the Church are unanimous in teaching that “the Triune God comes to dwell in our souls and there produces a supernatural organism which “deifies” our souls (making them divine) and enables them to perform divinely acts”. When we are in the state of grace, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell in our hearts. But when we sin gravely we lose this special presence.
The fact that the Blessed Trinity dwells in the heart of the just is beyond question. St. Paul wrote: “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3: 16). And this indwelling is attributed in a special way by appropriation to the Holy Spirit. Pope Leo XIII said: “This wonderful union, which is properly called ‘in-dwelling,’ differing only in degree or state from that which binds the blessed to God in eternal happiness, although it is without doubt produced by the presence of the whole Trinity … is attributed in a peculiar manner to the Holy Spirit”. Pope Pius XII also explained that the indwelling involves two elements: (a) the unique presence of the Holy Trinity to intelligent beings, and (b) the unique knowledge and love of the Trinity by these intelligent beings. In his encyclical on the Mystical Body, the Pope said: “The Divine Persons are said to indwell inasmuch as they are present to beings endowed with intelligence in a way that lies beyond human comprehension, and in a unique and very intimate manner, which transcends all created nature, these creatures enter into relationship with Them through knowledge and love” (n. 79: or: 94).
My dear brothers and sisters, if the Catholic Church is guided by the Holy Spirit towards the fullness of truth, if She listens attentively to God’s word and enjoys the presence of the Holy Trinity, what reason have we to criticize Her, to despise Her and to discredit Her? May we learn to love the Church as our true Mother. As St. Cyprian once said: “He cannot have God for his father, who has not the Church for his mother” (Treatise on Unity 6).