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No excuse for Christians to have closed mind

Published: May 25, 2022   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Today’s Gospel comes from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, which took place during the Last Supper in the Gospel of John. After Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to emphasize the true nature of service, he then announced Judas’ betrayal and that Peter will deny him — and naturally, his disciples found this talk of gloom and doom very troubling. This leads Jesus to reassure them that even though he will be departing, God will not abandon them. Indeed, he will send them the Holy Spirit to be with them and guide them always. 

In the portion of this discourse you just heard, Jesus says, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send … will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” I think this is a very reassuring message for us to hear as we gather to install Joel Brackett formally as a lector, an important step in his progress in the seminary for eventual ordination to the priesthood. Here Jesus says two very important things:

  • The Holy Spirit “will teach you everything.” This reminds us that in matters of faith, we are to be lifelong learners, and the joy of our relationship with the Lord should shine forth, especially when we proclaim God’s word in the liturgy. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to lead us to a deeper and deeper knowledge of God and the truths of religion. Meaning there is no excuse for a Christian to have a closed mind. If you think you know all you need to know about our faith, you don’t even know much about the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit “will remind you of everything that I” — meaning Jesus — “told you.” This means, first of all, that when we investigate with open minds the things we believe, there is always the danger that we might get it wrong. The truth of Jesus’ teaching is clear, but when we take the next step and draw conclusions in our own minds about what this means for us, the Holy Spirit will be there to help us test our conclusions in the light of Jesus’ word and thus help us to avoid falling into error. In this case, the error of mistaken belief. 

This is why, in the passage following the selection you just heard, knowing that his disciples will betray, deny and abandon him, the next thing Jesus speaks about is peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives it do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” 

This peace that Jesus gives is an interior peace that is independent of outward circumstances and is so important for us who exercise public ministry in the Church. This is not the peace of escapism; it is the peace of conquest, of overcoming evil, resisting evil with the force of good — peace that is, at its core, the fruit of self-sacrificing love. It is a peace that costs us a lot personally, and anyone preparing for the priesthood has to keep this in mind. And that is why Jesus then goes on from there to speak in the rest of this discourse about his upcoming struggle with the power of evil — the cost he will pay to set us free from the power of sin and death--culminating in his crucifixion — and then his ultimate vindication on Easter Sunday, the peace the world cannot give par excellence.

Joel, as an installed lector, you will have a more formal role in proclaiming this kerygma of Jesus’s death and resurrection and, consequently, our share in his victory. And so, I encourage you to keep in mind that as you prepare to proclaim God’s word to others, you also make sure to fully accept that word yourself, with all of its challenging implications, in obedience to the Holy Spirit. 

Meditate on it constantly so that each day you will have a deeper love of the Scriptures, and in all you say and do, show forth to the world our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily May 16.

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