THEME: ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN UNITE US TOGETHER IN TRUTH!
(1st Reading: Acts 17:55-60; 2nd Reading: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-20; Gospel: John 1:20-26)
In our contemporary society, most times, to express what one sees as the “truth” could be detrimental, especially when it threatens long-standing norms. For instance, if you tell the truth that conflicts with political or religious ideologies and principles, conventional and professional opinions, you will be marginalized, rejected, attacked, ridiculed and criticized even by members of your own religion or those with vested interests in the opinion you uphold; or you may be killed, despite guarantees of freedom of speech which is stipulated in our country’s constitution. Sequel to these undeniable facts, many people seldom speak the truth for fear of being rejected or even killed, thereby allowing things to go wrong. But should we compromise the truth so as to avoid criticisms or persecutions?
In the first reading, Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, courageously highlighted the historical truth of the scriptures concerning Jesus Christ, and thus confronted the Jews for obnoxiously killing the ancient prophets as well as their resistance of the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. These statements infuriated the Jews, which led to his killing.
Surprisingly, while they were stoning him, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60). What a compassionate request! This was exactly what Jesus Christ did during His Crucifixion! Of course, the Holy Spirit was instrumental to this extraordinary reaction, otherwise Stephen would have cursed or prayed for God’s vengeance upon his enemies.
Undoubtedly, trials and tribulations are sufferings resulting from oppressions or persecutions. They are basic elements that make up the negative valence of affective phenomena. Most times, they can help one to grow to the full stature of maturity or perfection. Unfortunately, many people think that those who are always encumbered with a lot of tribulations are accursed. It is not always the case!
As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ said to His disciples: “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations. But be courageous; I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). However, the kind of tribulations that are meritorious are the very ones we suffer for the sake of love of Christ. For our sufferings and struggles of this present life, even torture and death to our bodies, are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18).
Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world for the redemption of the whole human race without any discrimination or segregation. His aim was to reconcile and unite every person to God, so that there would be one family of God, or sheepfold with one Shepherd. He wanted unity and love for His followers so much, and that was the reason why in today’s Gospel, He prayed seriously for His disciples as well as those who would believe in Him through their words. The climax of this Priestly Prayer comes as He prays that all believers may be one as He and the Father are one: “May they become perfectly one so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).
Unfortunately, the disunity among Christians has been a veritable scandal, because it was not willed by Jesus Christ. Although the Universal Church established “ecumenism” to promote dialogue with Christians of other denominations, which is aimed at progressively narrowing the divisions among Christians until we become one again, in accordance with the intention and prayer of Jesus Christ for His followers. Yet, there seems to be more divisions, hatred, acrimony, rejection of truth and also persecutions among Christians. The evidence is clear; “many Christians lack the Holy Spirit, and do not care to invite Him to take control of their endeavours.” For the Holy Spirit engenders brotherly love, peace, patience, faith, hope, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, justice, equity, fairness, unity, trust, etc.
In the second reading, Jesus Christ stated categorically: “I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he or she has done.” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22: 12-14).
Therefore, since all our actions will be judged accordingly on the last day, then we should strive daily towards fulfilling our LORD’s wish and prayer of unity and love among believers anywhere we find ourselves. Also, ensuring that we have cordial relationships with God and our fellow human beings; and by promoting justice, equity, fairness, love, peace, unity, forgiveness, etc. in our society. However, we can only succeed when we constantly seek the intervention of the Holy Spirit in all our endeavours.
Finally, since Jesus Christ earnestly desires the unity and love of all believers, then we should strive daily to make it a reality through our constant prayers, words and positive attitudes towards others, even our enemies (Luke 6:27). As Christians, we cannot but speak the truth always, for God is truth, and truth is life. Compromising the truth in order to please people implies that we prefer to follow the devil, the father of lies.
Though people may attack us for proclaiming and upholding the truth, but once we trust in God Almighty, He will surely vindicate us through the Power of the Holy Spirit. So, let us not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which we were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). For only Him can unite us together in truth, peace, harmony and love.
May the Power of the Holy Spirit penetrate your innermost heart so that you can courageously proclaim the truth at all times, and always live in unity, peace, harmony and love with one another, and at the end of your life, may you gain eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Benjamin Okala, C.S.Sp.
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