Monday, May 26, 2014

Inheritance

Note: This was a homily I gave on the weekend of May 25th, 2014. If you would like to readings for the day that I used you can find them here. While not necessary they are a good aid for what follows.

“Be prepared to give an account of the hope in in you … with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15-16a). I've recently been able to visit the school where I grew up and the school from my internship. In going to these classrooms the kids eventually open up to me with various questions. Things from as simple as “Why do you wear all black?” and “Why do you wear a collar?” to questions as deep and penetrating as “Why did Jesus have to die for us?” and “Why did Jesus have to come when he did?” It reminds me all the more, especially as I grow older: “Be prepared to give an account of the hope in you.” Our hope is in Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created. How do we come to know the source and reason for our hope? By keeping his commandments, Jesus says, and in keeping them close to our hearts we will also grow in love of Him.

Still others may ask us, “Why do you believe in Jesus? Why do you waste your time on Sunday? Why don't you choose for yourself what's right and what's wrong?” While not necessarily the case, these questions will come from those who neither believe in Jesus not know Him. Nevertheless these are all questions that we need to answer for ourselves.

Jesus, however, has not left us as orphans. He has given us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit who spoke through the prophets and the holy Apostles, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.” Jesus promises us the same Spirit. How then does He send this Spirit? It is no mistake that in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 8:5-17) those who came to believe in Christ received the Holy Spirit from Peter and John. Phillip brought the word of Christ to Samaria—a land to the north—and those who heard came to believe. Yet they sent for Peter and John who were in Jerusalem, in the south, to visit them. They prayed for the Holy Spirit to visit them and they accomplished this task by the laying on of hands.
While not necessarily the route Peter and John took, it's important to recall the animosity between Samaria and Jerusalem dating back many centuries (at that time) and that the notion of both those of Jewish and Samaritan descent would be united was quite unusual.

What does this teach us? It teaches us that we receive the Spirit through the Church, and not just the church we all are in today, though indeed we receive it here. We receive the Spirit, rather, though the Church of our fathers, the community of believers from ancient times to the present day in union with one another. Phillip, though he was an Apostle himself, sought Peter and John to confirm the faith of the Samarians so that the believers in both the south and the north would be one through the same prayer and the same Spirit.

But perhaps some will ask, “Doesn't our faith alone make us one? Why do we need the Church?” I answer to them that just as we could not exist without our mother our faith could not exist without our mother, the Church. Just as we have received life as a gift we must also give our lives as a gift. In the same way we have received our faith as a gift, given to us through those who believe. Parents might understand this analogy best, but all of us are sons and daughters so I believe we can all relate to this fact: we receive our traits from our parents and as we grow older we resemble the features of our parents. Moreover we also find that, deep down, our children inherit our mannerisms, our attitudes, and our dispositions. If this is true then it is indeed also true that our faith is the same. In living Jesus' commandments we transform ourselves and we inherit His traits, His dispositions, and imitate Him more closely. And when we as adults do this we give this to our children so they might also resemble Christ a little bit more each day. Our hope, then, is that by inheriting these things they may also inherit His very image as sons and daughters of God.

Through all this we discover this truth: faith is not a private possession but a gift that is handed down from generation to generation. The Church aids us in handing down this faith through her sacraments, her prayers, and by her members (us included) who safeguard this precious gift and offer it to everyone.

We will all return to our own lives, our own problems, and our own homes in a very short while. But we are one in Christ's Body, the Church. The Spirit will come to us when we pray as one, united to the whole Body of Christ. Jesus, truly, will not leave us as orphans. He has given us a home this very day.