Friday, May 13, 2016

Pentecost Sunday Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Lawyer

In an ordinary or usual court procedure involving the trial of a criminal, there is the accused with his or her counsel or lawyer, there is also the accuser with his or her counsel or lawyer, there is the judge, there are the witnesses and the clerk or clerks of court. Of course there may be also some onlookers and some security personnel. At the completion of so many hearings of the case the judge delivers the verdict.  He or she either convicts or acquits the accused.

In our Gospel reading today we have a lawyer mentioned, not the judge, who gives the verdict for us. This is a very special case of a lawyer giving the verdict, so that we no longer have to face the judge.

In our Gospel reading Jesus mentions this lawyer by his role: that of an advocate. Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." Then he repeats the word "Advocate" and makes clear who this advocate is. He says, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything". This Advocate is no other than the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word translated here as "advocate" is "parakletos". In the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible this Greek word is only anglicised. It is translated as Paraclete. In the Authorised version translation it is rendered as Comforter. In the Revised Standard Version which some Catholics use and in our New American Bible Revised Edition from where the text of our Gospel reading is taken "parakletos" is translated as "Advocate".

The original meaning of the word "parakletos" as used by the Greeks was that of someone called to one's aid in a judicial cause. Hence it is understood as an advocate, a pleader, intercessor. In our present day this is the lawyer for the defense. And Jesus picked this word because this is what he meant, somebody who would plead for us before the Sovereign Judge.

Jesus described the work of this lawyer. A few verses after this he described his work as convicting the world of sin, of justice and of condemnation. In John 16:8 Jesus described the work of this lawyer as convicting, reproving, rebuking, exposing the sin of the world.

Before we consciously come to Jesus we are in and of the world. This lawyer, the Holy Spirit, convicts, reproves, rebukes, exposes our sinfulness to us. When this happens we feel we are the greatest sinner in the world. This conviction is the work of the Lawyer whom Jesus sends us in his bodily absence.

In the lives of the saints we often read that this and that saint considered himself or herself to be the greatest sinner in the world. We who read their lives seem to think that this was an exaggeration. We cannot seem to think that they were indeed the greatest sinners. But this conviction for these saints was real. They did not think it an exaggeration. It was not the result of their imagination. This was the result of the conviction of the Holy Spirit in them. When the Holy Spirit shows us our sinfulness we consider ourselves the greatest sinner in the world. The result of this is that we hasten to go to Jesus to seek his mercy. Looking at him in the cross the Spirit himself tells us our sins have been forgiven through the suffering and death of Jesus.

After being thus convicted by the Holy Spirit and delivered from our sinfulness by our faith in what Jesus did on the cross, we escape the judgment of God. Jesus said this: "He does not come under condemnation, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24).

Thus we have a case where a lawyer, the Holy Spirit, convicts us and pronounces us guilty and upon our agreement with this we will no longer be condemned by the judge, we have escaped condemnation.

This experience of the saints wherein they considered themselves the greatest sinners is not supposed to be an isolated experience, for the canonized saints only. This is supposed to be the normal experience of every Christian who has actualized the grace of baptism given him or her. If we actualize this grace there comes a time when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and we consider ourselves the greatest sinner in the world.

This is what happened during Pentecost day. We read that when the people heard of Peter's preaching, they "were deeply shaken" (Acts 2:37). The Authorized version renders these words as "they were pricked in their heart". The Revised Standard Version renders them "they were cut to the heart". The literal meaning of the original word is "they were stricken or pricked violently, were smitten."

St. John of the Cross has a better translation which aptly expresses the experience of a Christian when he or she is convicted by the Holy Spirit. St. John says, 'He tenderly wounds our souls in its deepest center'.

This Lawyer is the living flame of love that tenderly wounds our soul in its deepest center. Again let us not consider John of the Cross as a way out of the road saint, as offering an ideal too far for us to reach. He only expressed the normal experience of a person who wants to be a genuine Christian.

Let the Holy Spirit convict us of our sinfulness. Let this Lawyer accuse us and let us accept his accusation. Then we will no longer hear the verdict of the judge.

Let us bow our heads and you follow me as I pray the prayer of St. John of the Cross from his poem THE LIVING FLAME OF LOVE.

O living flame of love
That tenderly wounds my soul
In its deepest center! Since
Now you are not oppressive,
Now finish your work! if it be your will:
Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

O sweet burning,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
That tastes of eternal life
And pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
The deep caverns of feeling,
Once obscure and blind,
Now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
Both warmth and light to their Beloved.

How gently and lovingly
You wake in my heart,           
Where in secret you dwell alone;
And in your sweet breathing,
Filled with good and glory,
How tenderly You swell my heart with love.

By St. John of the Cross, as translated by E. Allison Peers and revised in just two words)

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