Sixth Sunday of Easter • Year C

Daniel L. Madden, O.S.A.
St. Ambrose Friary
Andover, Massachusetts

Acts 15:1-2,22-29
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Rev 21:10-14,22-23
John 14:23-29

Catholics in general don’t have speech about the Holy Spirit readily on the tongue. So I’m taking this as a personal challenge (and as preparation for Pentecost) to speak about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, after all, appears in all three readings.

How do they help us understand the Holy Spirit?

First, the Holy Spirit guides decisions. When faced with a major conflict regarding practices among the early Christians, the apostles and elders send a message that begins with, “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…”

Now, it might seem an odd thing that the apostles and elders even include themselves in the decision, as you’d think the Holy Spirit’s decision would be convincing enough to the hearers, but it offers the sense of communal practice and proper discernment. The apostles and elders aren’t puppets. They actively pray and discern.

I also like that the Holy Spirit is present in challenging debates and exhausting meetings like this one. It takes some of the pressure off. It can lower the temperature. We almost get the sense that the Holy Spirit is the presider at the meeting, suggesting, clarifying, building confidence in the message, then sending it and us out. And the presiding is happening in our hearts.

Second, the Holy Spirit provides vision. John of Patmos is taken “in spirit to a great, high mountain” where he sees the holy city in its glory. I’m not always at home with “spirit” language, but the point is important: without the Holy Spirit, there is no vision of God.

The Holy Spirit opens up something new within a material, scientific worldview. Don’t settle for what you can see and prove, it seems to say, and don’t be convinced by worldly success, for something greater awaits. But this vision only happens because the Holy Spirit is God’s dwelling on earth and with humanity, God within us, providing the vision that draws us upward to the great, high mountain.

Finally, the Holy Spirit enables remembrance. When Jesus gives his farewell speech, he tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will “remind you of all that I told you.” What has Christ told them? Well, many things. But just before this Gospel passage, he said, as I have loved you, so you also should love one another. Perhaps the remembrance is Christ’s love.

Without such remembrance, it’s easy to lose focus on the journey toward the great, high city. The vision becomes dull. The mountain looks too high. The city doesn’t seem all that great after all. The distractions along the way appear more appealing. Love of self takes over.

But then the Spirit reminds of Christ’s love, and we are once again impelled to join the community of believers on the way to the Father.