The readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21) lead me to reflect with you upon two gifts which are interior, two gifts that are deep within us. They are mysterious and can be known only in their outward expression. One is love. The other is the Holy Spirit. Both cannot be really known in themselves; both are made real for us, they are realized, in their activity, in their expression, and in their external manifestations.
As we all know so very well, talk is cheap and mere words are without meaning unless our words are expressed in deeds. Love is not simply a nice feeling, a sentiment, a warm emotion. Affection is a feeling. Love becomes real in decisions made and in the actions that follow. It is in activity that love is realized.
Don’t get me wrong; words of love are of great importance. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I love you”. In fact they can be the most beautiful and powerful words in a person’s life. It is vital for husbands to tell their wives they love them. It’s vital for wives to tell their husbands they love them. It is very vital for children to hear words of love from their moms and dads, along with lots of hugs. And friends, too. Friends should not be ashamed to let each other know that they care for and love one another.
When you’re told that you are loved a redemptive force is let loose inside you. A powerful force lifts you up out of feelings of depression, out of loneliness, out of feeling unappreciated and merely used. Probably more lives have been changed by those three little words than by all of the sermons ever preached.
Jesus did not discount the value of the verbal communication of love but He went way beyond it because He knew that love is much more than mere words. In fact He knew of love’s power to change the whole world, telling us even to love our enemies and that if we truly did, the world would be changed. Jesus went on to prove what He believed in the way He died for us, in the way He died to redeem our world by His love for all of God’s children.
What a realist this Jesus is! We are the ones who tend to make love unrealistic. We make love into something soft, dreamy, and cheap. If you think we don’t, then just take a look at what television does with love, or Hollywood. Jesus, on the other hand, defines love in terms that are strong, concrete and quite real. Love is action; love is a way of living; love is an attitude toward others that expresses why God created us in the first place. He created us to love us and in return be loved by us.
Jesus went on to say: “The one who has my commandments in his heart and keeps them is the one who loves me.” It’s how you live that lets you know that you live in love.
The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity who is Love personified, acts internally within each one of us. The Holy Spirit is present within our hearts and souls, animating, vivifying, and inspiring us. We can never see the Holy Spirit all by Himself standing alone. The Holy Spirit lives and moves deep within us, within our souls. Like love, we see Him in our actions; we make His presence real; we realize Him.
The Bible assigns several different names to the Holy Spirit – the Consoler, the Advocate, the Sanctifier, and the Paraclete. The bible tells us that the Holy Spirit protects and defends us against our Ancient Enemy. He is our Advocate, the One who stands with us.
The word “Paraclete” in Greek translates into English as “to stand beside one”. The Holy Spirit stands beside us. He is our Advocate, our Counselor, and our Guide. Why? Because our Ancient Enemy, Satan, is always accusing us as being rotten, no good, and damned by God. The Father of Lies is always accusing us of being rejected by God. The Holy Spirit tells us otherwise. He guides us act in God’s ways.
We should look for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to work within us. From Him we look for Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Reverence for the Lord, Strength, and Courage. The Holy Spirit vivifies us and animates us, that is to say He enlivens us, giving us God’s life. He is beside us to defend us when we are depressed. When the sacraments of the devil beset us the Holy Spirit is our advocate, our counsel, in order that we might defend ourselves. He tells us that even when we have sinned we can repent and be forgiven. We are, He reminds us, being redeemed sinners because God loves us.
And the sacraments of the devil? Well, they all begin with “d’s”, just as does the name of Lucifer, the Devil. His “sacraments,” (there are seven of them) are doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair, and death. We need our Advocate, our Consoler, our Defender, our Paraclete, the “One called to be beside us” when we face doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair, and death, both spiritual death and physical death.
And just like love, we discern the Holy Spirit’s presence within us when external things happen – when we act and engage others and engage life.
Love and the Holy Spirit – both cannot be known in and of themselves. Both are made present to us, both are realized in acts, in deeds, in things that are done. Both animate and vivify us, filling us with their special life. Both are the expression of God. God makes Himself real for us, expresses Himself and becomes present to us through both love and the Holy Spirit.
And so as we approach the Ascension of our Lord and the great Solemnity of Pentecost we should look to God with expectant faith, open to His great gift to us, His many gifts to us, in the coming of His Holy Spirit into us, that same Spirit who raised the humanity of Jesus Christ from the dead, and who can, if we respond to God, raise up our humanity too.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from the dead into new life. By the power of that same Holy Spirit we also can be raised into a new, better, and higher life. Receive the Holy Spirit and share His presence with those around you.