Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 26, 2019
I recently invited myself to stay with my aunt, who I haven’t seen for way too many years, because she lives on the other side of the country. She seemed delighted when I called and suggested the visit. The moment I saw her face greeting me at the airport, I was confident that she was genuinely excited about hosting me. I must admit, however, that when I invited myself, I was aware of the fact that my stay might be a burden to her, and I tried to be alert to ways to be a helpful and gracious guest.
She has always been an extremely fastidious housekeeper. You can literally “eat off her floors.” Her house is guest-ready 24/7. Still, when I invited myself, I am absolutely certain that she not only gave the house a thorough inspection, but that she also prepared in many other ways; organizing, planning, shopping, and cooking.
Even though I had never been in this house before, I felt very much at home from the moment I set foot through her door. Certainly, because of her warm and loving welcome, but also because I was surrounded by so many familiar things. In every room, there was something to remind me that I was staying with family. I definitely did not feel like I had invited myself. I was made to feel like I belonged.
Today’s Gospel is part of what is commonly referred to as Jesus’s “Farewell Discourse.” But, it is much more than a “good-bye.” It is also His self-invitation to abide within us as The Holy Spirit. The invitation, however, involves far more than a brief visit. It is a self-invitation for a prolonged stay.
When first extended, this Divine Self-invitation triggered numerous anxious questions from the Apostles and disciples. Moreover, as we see in our First Reading, the anxiety persisted even after Jesus’s Resurrection. The uneasiness that the Divine Self-invitation evoked back then persists even today, in those eager to prepare properly for the Visitor from the other side of reality. How can we ever possibly do enough to ready ourselves to receive God as our houseguest?
Obviously, we can never be worthy for God to enter under our roof…but Jesus has left us some very reassuring and calming words. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. There is also great comfort to be found in The Acts of the Apostles, where we hear: It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden on you beyond these necessities.
What we hear on this sixth Sunday of the Easter Season are instructions from The Guest as to what “necessities” will make for an enjoyable and fruitful visit.
First of all, it seems essential to accept the Divine Self-invitation with authentic and genuine delight. The Guest will know that the greeting is genuine and sincere if extended with “The Word.” A welcoming host has The Word of God in their mind, on their lips, and in their heart. Spoken and lived, the Gospel is the best way to welcome The Holy Spirit into our lives.
The Holy Spirit does not want the visit to be spoiled by an unrealistic concern that we be fully prepared. Even a life that is “houseguest ready 24/7” can never be truly worthy to be a tabernacle. The Spirit is a gracious guest, alert to ways to assist us making the stay joyful and fruitful without causing undue burden to the host. Where our preparations fall short, The Guest steps in to make things better.
Our Sacraments, a special gift Jesus left to us, are the familiar things that make The Holy Spirit feel truly at home…not merely a passing visitor, but a much loved and welcomed family member.
The absolute necessity, however, is an atmosphere of love. We sing the hymn Where there is love, there is God! A life devoid of love is not simply inhospitable, it is uninhabitable for The Spirit of Life and Love.
The most reassuring and hope-filled lesson to be had as we near the conclusion of this Easter Season and prepare to welcome the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday is that, at the end of the stay, The Guest becomes the host, guiding us out of our earthly bodies and welcoming us to The Kingdom, where Christ, with pure love, will greet those who have tried their best to host the Holy Spirit.