Homily for 26 May

The Lord leaves to makes his home with us in his Spirit. It bespeaks intimacy, but also space. Any relationship is space and intimacy. In the intimate closeness of the Lord we find the space to be the people the Lord invites us to be. The Lord makes his home with us, he makes his home with the body of his disciples, he makes his home with each of us. He makes us one with him through the gift of his Spirit. He also gives us space to be part of the story to the new Jerusalem, he gives us his Spirit to enable them to play our own role on the journey to the new Jerusalem; to discover our own mission. He wants to experience our life of discipleship with us with its joy and enrichment, its effort and sacrifice [1].

In the first reading we hear of a moment of challenge, indeed of crisis, in the early community of disciples. They started out as a small community of Jews following the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. And then Gentiles – non-Jews – started coming to them. The question faced by the disciples is whether these Gentiles had to become Jews in order to follow Jesus. In some ways the answer seemed obvious. Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews, his first disciples were Jews and so you have to be a Jew to follow him. But St Paul and others challenged this easy answer: Paul had experienced was the graciousness of God which led him to faith in Jesus. What was needed was faith and baptism. It was big change for Paul himself, one who had loved the Law.

Pope Francis reflected on the question they faced and said, ‘One might wonder, why did Jesus not leave a suggestion to settle at least this first “great discussion” (Acts 15:7)? … Why didn’t Jesus always give clear and speedily decisive rules? This, he said, is the temptation to think that everything is all right if we have everything under control. The Lord does not send an answer from heaven to the problems faced and faces. He sends the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit does not come with a ready-to-apply solution, he comes with fire.

In the face of disagreement and challenge, the apostles and disciples prayed together, they reflected on the Lord’s words, they listened to each other, to the experiences of others. And they were willing to let go. We see in the Acts that the community came to the decision that Gentiles did not need to become Jews first. They decided that for the sake of the mission, in order to proclaim God’s love in Christ, they had to leave behind traditions which would hinder their mission. Led by the Spirit they saw how they had to change in order to be faithful. It was not just change for the sake of change or change to accommodate themselves to the world, but change in order to be faithful to the mission their Master gave them. Their closeness with the Lord gave them confidence to say, ‘It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by us….’

We, as individuals and communities, face the question: how do I respond to this person, this situation, this challenge? Remaining faithful, bearing witness to Christ’s love, does not mean staying comfortably static or, most of the time, following a set of rules. Remaining faithful invites us to keep praying over every situation with God’s Word, asking the Spirit to guide us, listening to one another, to the faith of the Church. It means being willing to let go to what hinders the mission the Lord gives us. In the challenges we face as individuals and as communities we do not have ready-made solutions and we may not get things right all the time. But as the Holy Father said a few years ago: ‘Don’t be afraid of failures. Don’t be afraid of falling. What matters in the art of journeying isn’t not falling but not staying down.’

Our security comes not from being rigid, but from the indwelling of the Lord who has made his home with us. The Spirit is with you, with us. He has made his home with us and so in the face of challenge, change and questions we can trust in his loving faithfulness, in the Spirit he gives who leads us into his truth. He ‘asks everything of us, yet he also gives everything to us’ as we journey together to his Kingdom.

[1] Gaudete et Exsultate 25