One Faith and One Will

One Faith and One Will

Fourth Sunday after Easter

Dearly beloved: Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration. (St James 1:17)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

With these words of the Apostle St James, and with Our Lord’s words to His Apostles in today’s Gospel, Holy Mother Church is already preparing us for the reception of the great Gift, who is the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Last Sunday, as you will recall, Our Lord foreshadows His coming Ascension; today, He foreshadows the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles at Pentecost, and also to us, to be our Comforter and Advocate. Like last Sunday, there is a note of sadness in Our Lord’s announcement, sorrow has filled the hearts of the Apostles; Christ Jesus, their beloved Master and friend will go away from them, but He reassures them that is it good for them that He return to the Father. If He does not go, the Spirit will not come, He and the Father will not send Him, until such a time as their Risen Lord has taken His rightful place in Heaven.

St Augustine points out that this strength and comfort will be necessary for the disciples (that is, both the Apostles during the years in which our salvation was wrought, but also to us in the year 2024), because, in the beginning of the work of redemption, Christ “Himself was with His disciples, [and] His visible Presence was then their sufficient comfort”. But after His Ascension, what will be the Church’s comfort, the Church’s strength? What Christ’s physical presence was to His disciples on earth, the Holy Spirit is to us in the here and now; we are not alone, as, provided we be in the state of sanctifying grace, He dwells within our very souls, closer and nearer to us than any physical being ever could be. And isn’t this in itself a wonderful comfort; this perfect Gift, which “com[es] down from the Father of lights”, by His very presence within us, fulfils the Father and the Son’s mandate to be the Comforter of our souls, to strengthen us in the struggle for virtue, and to give witness to our faith in an increasingly Godless world.

Yet, the Holy Spirit is also come to teach us; “when he, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will teach you all truth”. He will instruct us, through His inspirations and grace, in the heavenly knowledge and wisdom we need for our sanctification and our salvation. But He will also teach us the truth about ourselves, by enlightening our consciences, by ‘convicting us of sin’, to know our state as sinful creatures, in complete dependence on the grace of God, and to know our specific sins, so that we may repent of them, and bring them before the tribunal of God’s mercy and justice in the Sacrament of Penance. Our Lord says that He has much to say to us, but that we cannot bear it; it is the Holy Spirit who will illumine us and give us the strength to bear this reality. If we ask Him, He will teach us the truth of our failings, and move our hearts to repentance. However, He will also teach us the truth about who He wills us to be, the saints He wills us to become should we but ask for, and live according to, His grace. Let us resolve on this Sunday to never let a day pass without asking for the light of the Holy Spirit to know our sins, to humbly confess them when we are able to, and, by the help of His grace, to sin no more.

The action of the Holy Spirit in our lives also gives us great hope, and helps us to be oriented to our true end, eternal happiness with God in Heaven. This week, the holy liturgy places before us the following sublime oration, summarising, as it were, this role of the Holy Spirit, and His role in guiding and preserving the unity of the Church:

O God, who dost makes the minds of the faithful to be of one will: grant unto thy people to love what Thou commandest and to desire what Thou dost promise; so that, amid the manifold changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joys are to be found.

The Holy Spirit, through His unifying influence, grants us to be of one faith and of one will in pursuing the glory of God and our salvation; this is a pure gift of God, for, because of our fallen nature, we are inclined to disunity, to separation, fragmentation and opposition. The gift of the Holy Spirit is that we are brought together in peace, in love and in the common will of serving God and of making Him loved throughout the world. To do this, we must love His holy law, to love, truly love with our hearts, and not just our minds, His sweet yoke which we gladly bear, to follow His holy commandments, and to desire with the same heart, and with holy longing, the heavenly fatherland.

All the sufferings of this life cannot be compared with the true joy which awaits us in Heaven; in the here and now, we must manfully bear our cross with Jesus, through the tempestuous times that we are living in, fixing our hearts in that one place where there is no change, no suffering, no tears, in Heaven, with the Blessed Trinity, “with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration”. Let us give our hearts to Our Immaculate Queen and Mother, who enjoys already, body and soul, the true joys of heaven, that, safe in her hands, we may dwell already in anticipation where the Good Lord desires us all to be.

Fr Bede Mary