The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Homily: Monday, 6th Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 16:11-15; Ps 149; Jn 15:26-16:4a

I've often mentioned my father and some of the things he taught me. When it came to listening, he used to say:
"Nobody ever hated a listener. I've never heard anyone say, 'He listens too much.'"
Isn't that the truth?

And when it comes to our Faith, our willingness to listen can make all the difference. You and I hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached right here, and yet how many of us hear the words but not the Word?
Jesus is the Living Word of God
If the Word of God is going to pierce our hearts and make a difference in our lives, we have to listen to it. And if we listen, if we really listen, the power of the Word is beyond our imagining, something we're told in the Letter to the Hebrews:
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" [Heb 4:12].
Wow! Talk about power!

And did you notice - did you listen to what Luke told us in our first reading? Paul, when visiting the city of Philippi, went outside the city to a place of prayer. And there he encountered Lydia. Lydia was a merchant, a dealer in purple cloth - in those days that was the expensive stuff - so she was probably wealthy. She was also a "worshiper of God," which means she was either a Jew or a righteous Gentile, probably the latter. Lydia, too, had gone to that place to pray, but what did she do when Paul began to preach?
Lydia and Paul in Philippi
Luke tell us: she "listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying" [Acts 16:14].

Did you hear that? Because she listened, the Lord opened her heart. In other words, if we do our part, the Lord will do His. And too often that's the problem. Because we don't listen, our hearts remain closed and impenetrable, unable to receive God's saving Word. We become like Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus. He refused to listen to what the Lord was telling him through Moses and Aaron, so his heart remained closed and hardened.

But not Lydia. She listened to God's Word and had her entire household Baptized. And then, her heart filled with the Spirit, she opened her home to Paul and his companions.

All of this, of course, is the work of the Holy Spirit, the "Advocate" that Jesus promised in today's Gospel passage. The Holy Spirit, you see, is the dispenser of God's gifts. You remember His wondrous gifts, don't you? The gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord [Is 11:1-3]. Kinda cover the waterfront, don't they?

And notice, too, how Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit, the gift-giver, is Himself a gift from Father and Son. Listen again...
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify to me. And you also testify..." [Jn 15:26-27]
"...our God is a consuming fire" [Heb 12:29]
Jesus goes on to remind us that this testifying won't be easy, that many will fail to listen, and with closed hearts will reject His Word. Did you hear His prophecy?
"...the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God" [Jn 16:2].
Yes, for many Christians throughout the world, that hour has already arrived. And so let's pray for today's persecuted Christians; and pray too for those who persecute them. Pray that these will hear God's Word of salvation, listen to it, and open their hearts to the conversion God desires for them.

And let us pray, too, for ourselves - we who so often place the things of this world ahead of God's will for us. Pray that we will be open to the Spirit's gifts, that like Lydia we'll listen and open our hearts and homes to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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