Sixth Sunday of Easter
A Homily - Cycle A - 2013-2014
First Reading - Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Second Reading - 1 Peter 3:15-16
Gospel - John 14:15-21
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."
A young man is finishing his medical clearance to join the Navy. The doctor asks him, “So, son, why did you decide to join the Navy?” “Well, sir, my dad said it would be a good idea.” “Oh? And what does your dad do?” “He’s in the Army, sir.”
We only tease those we love!
Well, whichever - - - Army, Navy, Marine Corps, yes even Air Force, we thank God, the ultimate act of Love, that these men and women have offered so that we can peacefully be here today. That’s a special kind of spirit, having the courage to go out and put your life on the line for a greater cause, a greater purpose. But then, having read stories and talked to guys who had been in battle, their courage really didn’t come from the Flag or the United States or even their mission . . it came from the fact that they were there for one another! They put their lives on the line, in those particular moments and particular places, for each other. It’s a fraternity that transcends words. It’s a kind of love which very powerfully imitates the love of God. Perhaps it’s why a mantra has become so important in the US Military the past 50 years, a mantra that proclaims, “No man is left behind.” No man SHOULD be left behind, even after death
Maybe that’s why it was so important for Jose Holguin to return to New Britain Island, off the east coast of New Guinea, where he was shot down in the second World War. His B-17 bomber had been completely destroyed on June 26, 1943, such that he was the only survivor of a crew of ten. He had to flee the scene, with no ability to bring the remains of his friends with him, but he left with a promise, a promise that one day he would be “back to take care of them.” This promise reflects what we as American treat with such importance during the intensity of War – no nation has tried so hard to recover the remains of its beloved fallen from battle fields, new and old.
Jose spent two years as a POW, and then moved on after the war. However, he never forgot his promise. He still had to find men whom he knew very dearly, one of whom was a best man at his own wedding. He loved them. He depended on them for his survival. He also had started a family and a new job in the 50s and 60s, so he was too busy to return until the 80s. Once he did, he set about in earnest to locate the remains of his crew members on that island. Against the odds, he actually found about 5-6 remains of the nine who had died in his plane. The remains were interred at home towns and at the Arlington Cemetery over the past few years. Until his own death in 1994, one thing was very, very important for Jose – to bring his brothers home. I think THIS kind of relationship is what makes the heroes we have today – not individual courage, for that doesn’t last very long. Rather, the bonds which form between brothers, the bonds which declare NO ONE will be left behind. NO ONE will be left alone. THAT is what allows men and women to give their lives. THAT is what allows us to give thanks this weekend.
Thanks be to God, our Lord promises us today the same things. He is about to ascend into the eternal glory of Heaven, where we pray that Jose and his band of brothers are already. But Jesus says with such love, He will NOT leave us orphans. He knows that human nature abhors being alone. And so he promises that He will send an Advocate, a Comforter, His Spirit, to be with . . . us . . . always. Not just to watch over us, like God the Father. Not just to walk beside us, as Jesus has. But to be WITHIN US, reminding us of His love, His power, His presence, every day of our lives. Praise God, 60 of our young people just received the power of that same Spirit on Friday night, the night of their holy confirmation, it’s changed the rest of their lives.
Praise God, we ourselves also have that same Spirit of Love, the Spirit who is with us always, the Spirit who empowers us, the Spirit who will descend upon us on Pentecost. The apostles prayed with great fervor those nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost, the very first novena. May we do the same – you can find a Novena to the Holy Spirit on the Internet which will start this coming Friday night. Ask Him to come. Ask Him to fill your hearts. Ask him to remind you, you are never alone, you will NEVER be left behind. COME, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them, the fire of your love.