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Monday, April 28, 2008

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

In the Gospel today, Our Lord promises us that he will send an Advocate who will be with us always to lead, guide and protect us. This Advocate will be a Spirit of truth, and will help us to live that truth in our lives, bringing us to Christ. Through the work of this Advocate, we will be able to love Jesus and follow his commandments. In return, Jesus promises that he will love us, and that God, our Heavenly Father, will also love us and we will reside in Jesus, and Jesus will reside in us. This Advocate which Our Lord promises to us is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, who came down upon the Apostles at Pentecost, and continues to come down upon us today in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In the first reading, we see the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Crowds of Samaritans had begun to believe in Jesus, and were baptized, but it wasn't until the Apostles Peter and John came to the Samaritans and laid hands on them that they received the Holy Spirit. Through the laying on of hands, Peter and John confirmed the belief of the Samaritans and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit comes down upon the baptized believer, completing the process of initiation which began in the Sacrament of Baptism and is continued through the reception of the Eucharist. When we were confirmed, we received the Holy Spirit, which tied us more closely to the Church, uniting us more intimately to the Body of Christ, which we entered at our baptism. It also more strongly obliges us to spread the Gospel throughout the world, while also giving us the obligation to defend the Gospel against those in the world who would attack it.

Among Catholics, there tends to be a common misunderstanding about the Sacrament of Confirmation. For many Catholics, especially those who are in preparation for the Sacrament, there is a tendency to view reception of Confirmation as a “graduation” from religious education. With this view, the newly confirmed feel that they are no longer obligated to attend any religious education program. This, of course, is an inaccurate understanding, as we should be open to any opportunity to grow in our understanding of the Christian faith, allowing ourselves to draw closer to Jesus by learning about him. Only through growth in our faith can we more powerfully and effectively fulfill Jesus' command to preach the Gospel to all nations.

So, how do we preach this Gospel? As we heard in the second reading today, St. Peter tells us that we must “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” By growing in our faith, both spiritually and intellectually, we are able to explain our faith with greater clarity and true desire to share the faith we hold. By sharing our faith, we are fulfilling the commandment by Our Lord to spread the Gospel to all nations. All of us, through our baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation are obligated to preach the Gospel. We do this mainly by living our lives as Jesus commands us: to love God with our whole heart, soul, and being; and to love our neighbor as ourself. By following these commandments, we are able to show how much we love Our Lord. In return, Our Lord promises to love us, and that God, our Heavenly Father, will also love us. Likewise, Jesus promises to be united with us, and we will be united with him. Through our examples when living out our belief in the Gospel, others will be drawn closer to Christ, while we ourselves will also be drawn closer to him.

As we come closer to the end of this Easter Season, may the Holy Spirit guide us into loving Christ and following his commands, and may we experience the depth of Jesus' love.

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