Sunday the 7th Week of Easter
“I accomplished the work that you gave me to do”, Jesus says to the Father. And now that work, which is also the work of the Father, needs to be applied to concrete human lives. For that reason, Jesus says simply, “I pray for them”. It is the Holy Spirit who enables the human Jesus to pray, and it is the same Spirit who allows the work of Jesus to reach out and touch our lives, to fill us with his own eternal life. The work of Jesus was to redeem us and save us by shedding his blood, but it is the Holy Spirit who answers the prayer of Jesus by making that redemption and salvation ours.
St Peter talks about one way we can know that the Spirit has answered the prayer of Jesus for our own personal life. He says “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you”. If our lives are so obviously Christian that others can insult us for being religious, then we can be certain that the Holy Spirit is active within us, and that he has answered the prayer of Jesus for us.
Another sign is if we find ourselves drawn to follow the example of the apostles “after Jesus had been taken up to heaven”. “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer”, said the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. If we too can “devote ourselves to prayer” as Jesus asked us to, then we should understand that the Holy Spirit is present and active, that he has fulfilled the will of the Father within us. That is the main concern of the Holy Spirit for us, and his whole purpose in dwelling in us: to hand down Christ to us, to apply to our own personal life all that Christ did in the name of the Father, and by the will of the Father.
Jesus adds, “I do not pray for the world, but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours”. Christians belong to God because they were baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. But God leaves us free to respond to the grace of baptism or not, and as long as we are in the world, we can ignore the presence of the Spirit within us, fail to devote ourselves to prayer, or live in such a way that no one would know that we are Christian.
Jesus asks the Father to let him “give eternal life to all those entrusted to him”, those who “have believed that it was the Father who sent him” and have been baptized, but have not let the Holy Spirit do much of anything in their lives. To all of these, scripture gives the commandment, “Be filled with the Spirit”. Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through baptism. Reject all obstacles that would prevent the kindling of the fire of the Holy Spirit. Then you can begin to feel the Spirit moving in your heart.
For this last week of the Easter season is also a week of preparation for your personal Pentecost. Every gift that God has given you is intended to be developed for his glory. Every grace is intended to create in us
further grace, until we reach the fullness of the Spirit. Yet however much we struggle, the fullness of the Spirit can never lead to a feeling of satisfaction, because every fullness creates in us new tension and a sense of something missing. There is a perpetual gap between the fullness we receive in the present, and the one prepared for us in the future. But as we make room in our heart and life for the Holy Spirit, he in turn makes room within us for Christ and the eternal life that is his to give.
How precious it is, then, to know how the apostles and Mary prepared their hearts to be worthy homes for the Holy Spirit. How essential it is for our salvation and our joy to follow their example of continuous prayer for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Like them, let us surrender all thought, all will, all counsel, and all action to the Holy Spirit, that he might lead our entire life, its past with its present and its future, using our weakness and our strength, our success and our failure, our health and our sickness, in pursuit of the purpose for which Christ died for us and was raised: BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT!