HOMILY: SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT!
BY: Fr. John Louis
READINGS: Acts 10:25–26, 34–35, 44–48 / 1 John 4:7–10/ John 15: 9–17
Coming Thursday will be the solemn feast of the Ascension of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. On that solemn day, our Lord assured the Apostles of the empowerment by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-11). Ten days after the Ascension of our Lord, that is, on the day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit descended in a spectacular way to empower the Apostles. Then, sometime later (according to today’s first reading from Acts 10), the same Holy Spirit descended on the household of Cornelius, a Gentile (Roman) soldier, who was not a disciple of Jesus during His earthly ministry.
Taking a cue from the experience of Cornelius, let us learn how we can also allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. When someone is leading us to a destination, we may walk behind him/her or walk abreast of the person. In this respect, we could say that Cornelius started walking far behind the Holy Spirit, but he eventually reached the point of walking abreast of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Cornelius began, even without knowing that the Holy Spirit existed, nonetheless he did the good things the Spirit inspired in his heart. Happily, Cornelius ended up embracing the Good News preached by St. Peter and he experienced the actual manifestation of the Holy Spirit in his life.
What, then, are some of the things Cornelius was doing which showed that he was following the ‘lead’ of the Spirit without knowing it? Firstly, even at a time that he – a Roman/Gentile – did not know Jesus as the Saviour of the world, Cornelius worshipped the only true God (Acts 10:1-4). Thus, he followed from afar the ‘lead’ of the Spirit.
Secondly, he was a man of prayer (Acts 10:1-5), who fasted occasionally (Acts 10:30). This was certainly inspired by the Spirit, who enables us to pray (Rom. 8:15-16, 26-27).
Thirdly, Cornelius was fond of giving alms (Acts 10:2, 4). God is love and he has shown us his love by offering his only Son; he, in turn, commands us to love one another, according to today’s second reading. This commandment of love is repeated twice in today’s gospel reading. And a practical way to show love to another person who is in need is to give him/her alms. It was therefore certainly the Spirit of God who led Cornelius to be charitable to the needy.
Fourthly, generally, the Jews in those days did not have a cordial relationship with the Romans who had occupied the Holy Land. In that situation, therefore, it is amazing that Cornelius had a good reputation even among the Jews (Acts 10:22). There should be no doubt that the lifestyle of Cornelius by which he won the hearts of the Jews was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Cornelius was ‘a devout man and one who feared God’ (Acts 10:2). He might have even influenced some of his subordinate Roman soldiers to worship Yahweh (cf. Acts 10:7). Certainly, only a person led by the Spirit can lead others to the Living God.
Thus, through the worship of the only true God, prayer and fasting, works of charity, good life- style and attracting souls for God, among others, the Holy Spirit was leading Cornelius from afar, and drawing him closer and closer to Himself. Eventually, then, Cornelius arrived at the point of walking abreast of the Holy Spirit: as St. Peter preached the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ, the Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household and they were baptized.
Beloved where are we in our walk with the Spirit? Many of us started walking with the Spirit even as infants when we were baptized. The question now is: are we still walking abreast of the Spirit through worshipping only God, prayers and fasting, good lifestyle, charity and winning souls for Christ, among other things? Or are we far behind the Spirit like losing a friend who is driving another car ahead of us in a heavy traffic?
Beloved, to conclude:
I pray that, if we have lost sight of the Spirit, probably because we are not even doing half of what the yet-to-be-Christian Cornelius was doing, the Spirit will give us a fresh start: like a friend who drives his car off the road to wait of us to catch up with him/her, so may the Spirit of God give us the opportunity to catch up; If we have not lost sight of the Spirit but we are far behind His ‘lead’, then, I pray that we will double up our steps by doing all that Cornelius did; and If we are already walking abreast of the Spirit, then, I pray that we will begin to walk hand-in- hand, by opening up more and more to the enlightenment and unconditional love that He pours out into our hearts. Amen.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis