Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A), 2020-05-24: Whom Shall I Fear?


Homily for Seventh Sunday of Easter


Year A: Acts 1:12-14; Ps 27; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11

St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In our gospel today, the introduction of the “High priestly prayer” of Jesus, we heard him saying that eternal life is to know the living, triune God. This knowledge has a cognitive, intellectual, dimension, often communicated through catechesis of faithful parents as well as in the Church. It provides necessary, although not sufficient, preconditions for a relational bond of friendship with God, developed through our experiences of God in our lives. A friendship steadily growing until our communion with him is complete in the state we know as heaven.

Eternal life, thus, is not something beginning later, but here and now. A process of a growing closeness to God, increasingly visible in our words and deeds. And only available through the incarnation of Israel’s God, the only God, in Jesus Christ. Other religions may provide obedience to rules or contemplations of an undefined transcendence. But never a relationship. For that to be, the transcendent God needs to take the first step, because we can’t. Hence, no religion that denies God’s incarnation in Christ can be said to worship “the same God” as the one revealing himself in Christ.

In order for us to fully grasp eternal life beginning now, we need to have the right understanding of the Ascension of the Lord, celebrated last Thursday. The approach to Ascension of the 18th century Enlightenment, still dominating, thinks Jesus has gone “up and away” to a remote and finally unreachable and irrelevant place. The true approach, i.e. the biblical, however, views heaven not as “up there”, but as the most supreme state, dimension of existence, wherefrom Jesus always can follow and act in the world.  As we understand from our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, this was exactly the understanding of the apostles. Therefore, there was no sadness and sorrow among them, only a joyful expectation of what would happen when Christ began to act from his new state of being. They hadn’t lost Jesus. Instead, whole creation has gained him, as he in human nature, his matter, through his mission fulfilled in Ascension, brings creation, all matter, back, not only to encounter but to live with God. Thus, becoming the bridge to divine life, not visible to our eyes here but the most profound way to exist.

We are free to walk on that bridge or not. But without walking on it, there is no chance to come to the other side. And we walk by affirming Christ in faith, revealed knowledge and personal friendship, helped by the Holy Spirit, the love bond between the Father and the Son, poured out over the world at Pentecost as a “spiritual chain reaction”, following earth’s return to God in our Lord’s Ascension.

There are those who confuse the Holy Spirit with the spirit of time. But they are each other’s opposites. Through all times, also in ours. Because the fallen human nature – everything in us that turns away from God – is always the same, i.e. fallen, until it has received Holy Spirit and started the walk over the bridge to eternal, divine life, which restores our nature to what it was created to be.

In the gospel, Jesus asked the Father to glorify him, the Son. This refers to his sequent passion, death and resurrection. Sacrificing oneself for truth, i.e. God, is the ultimate action of love – for truth and for others to attain it – and divine love conquers death. But what killed Jesus? The spirit of time, in action. Jesus’s revelation of whom God truly is, did not suit the powerful, who preferred their self-invented images of God, confirming them and their actions as they were. And what wants to kill divine life in us and the Church today? The spirit of time, in action. The same spirit, just another time, of powers and opinions – be it persons, groups, economic interests, secular media, political ideas or whatever – claiming superiority of Godless ideals, referred to as good for the particular needs of “our time”. This is of course just a packetizing.

The spirit of time tells you there is no original sin, that material progress and “free choice” will release goodness from within us, and that your life is about collecting wealth and popularity. It claims that the Catholic church must change her teaching on e.g. abortion, euthanasia and sexuality to reflect what people think that God ought to want them to do, instead of what God actually wants. Or to ignore how Christ has instituted the seven sacraments, e.g. the sacrament of Holy orders, and ordain women, which the Church has no authority to do, but because that is how other organisations work. It exhorts Catholics to pick and choose what to believe or not, and deceives you that it is the Holy Spirit now telling you something else is true than what he has told the whole Church for 2000 years. In fact, the spirit of time has one single message, at any time: “No one must sacrifice anything for truth claims not invented by oneself. God is finally what you want him to be.” And so, we see the face of pride, the source of all other sins. As it does not want our salvation, but the opposite, the spirit of time is identical to what St. Ignatius of Loyola called “the evil spirit”.

The Holy Spirit, on the contrary, never has contradictory messages. In, and through, the Church he illuminates the divine truth. In us he helps to order our individual lives and situations according to divine truth, if we only listen, and allow him to help us to start walking over that bridge to divine life that is Jesus Christ, making us increasingly become who we can be in communion with the one who loved us into existence and alone knows what makes us eternally happy. The Holy Spirit therefore always confronts the spirit of time. Through the guiding teaching of the Church. Through the seven sacraments as encounters with Christ in matter, as he has instituted them. And through every insight, strength and consolation given to us by humble, personal prayer.

In our second reading from the First letter of St. Peter, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to us about what always is the final, temporal consequence of standing up for Christ and his Church: “If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ … if anyone of you should suffer for being a Christian … he should thank God that he has been called one.” And in our responsorial psalm, the Holy Spirit added the most central question: “whom shall I fear?”. Amen.


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