6th Sunday of Easter
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: May 17, 2020
“Now where did I put that charger?”
How many times have I said that statement and how many times have I let my batteries run down?
Sometimes it is my iPad, sometimes the Bluetooth device, and of course the #1 culprit is my cell phone!
I don’t mean to let it run down but before you know how it goes, the battery is less than 15% and I’m getting warnings.
It of course happens when I am far from home and I didn’t buy the car charger device, so I’m stuck! Or the time I lost my charging cord at the hotel in a foreign country.
Either way, I’m low on battery, and I have to find a charger to get my functionality back to normal.
Don’t we feel the same way in the spiritual life sometimes?
We are so busy keeping connected to work, friends, family; we have to take care of our homes and cars, and we run out of battery power!
What is this battery power in the spiritual life and how do we ensure that the power never runs down to the warning signal?
We hear the answer in Christ’s words today
“I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth”
Christ knew he was leaving the disciples and returning to the Father, and he knew that left alone, our battery power would drop quickly, so God sent the Holy Spirit to be our strength, our source of energy in the spiritual life.
Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit is the forgotten part of the Trinity. God the Father gets a lot of focus of course and Christ as redeemer, but the Holy Spirit is just as much a part of the Trinity and we don’t seem to talk about the Spirit as much.
Which is too bad really as the Spirit continues with us now each day and is active in everything that we do in the faith life.
In Baptism, it is always humbling to me to know that the Holy Spirit works through the deacon, or priest as the water is blessed:
“by the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son”
In the Eucharist, the priest says the words: “make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”
In Confirmation, the bishop says: “send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.”
And then he anoints the candidate, “be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
At these major sacraments; at these key points in our lives we see the Holy Spirit front and centre, but the rest of the year, it seems that the Holy Spirit is much more hidden and lower key.
But if this is the part of the Trinity that God has given for battery power, strength and sustenance, should we speak of it more?
I have been doing a little research on ecumenism lately, as Vatican II has asked us to do, and it is interesting that our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, who have had beautiful liturgies and theology for the same 2000 years, have a much higher emphasis on a daily encounter with the Holy Spirit.
In their morning prayers they begin with this:
“O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, you are everywhere and fill all things, Treasury of blessings and giver of life: come and abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O good one.”
I love this prayer as it invites the Holy Spirit to come and abide with us, cleanse us from sin and save our souls.
It acknowledges that even though God send the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us strength, he is not forced upon us!
The battery is there, but we have to bring the charger and plug it in!
We see this in the first reading, where the deacon Phillip, has the Samaritans listening to the message with great joy, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands that embraces them into the Christian life and will be their strength in the persecutions and challenges to come.
In the second reading, Peter tells the Christians that they will have to give an explanation to others about Christ and the reason for their hope – it reminds us what Christ told us in the gospel of Luke – “do not worry about what you will say…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time”.
Or in the book of Romans: “we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words”.
We are called to plug our charger in to the battery of the Holy Spirit and we are fully charged and ready.
But if we try and rely in ourselves and forget the charger, we quickly run low and our answers will be based only on our own knowledge, which can never give to others the joy, love and caring that we get with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells us “if you love me, you will keep my commandments” and we know the two commandments are to love the Lord your God will all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.
It is hard to keep the commandments if we are self-reliant; but if we are tapped into our battery power daily, through 9 key words “come Holy Spirit, fill the heart of your servant” than we will never have say “Now where did I put that charger?”
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 19, 2020
How many lumens do you shine?
When we go to look for a light at Home Depot, the box tells us how many lumens of energy the light emits – a typical light around 1000-2000 lumens and one that is brighter over 5000 lumens.
“Lumens” is a fancy name for candlepower as they are calculated by a candle giving off one square foot of light from one foot away.
So how many lumens, is how many candles of light are emitted from your spiritual light source.
Our spiritual light source is the power of the Holy Spirit we received at our baptisms and throughout our lives.
At our baptisms we receive our baptismal candle which is lit from the Easter candle and we are told “this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly” and to “keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts”!
The image of light is so powerful in our faith:
- The first thing God created was light – let there be Light!
- Isaiah tells us in the first reading today that God will make him and us a “light to the nations”
- In the book of James, we hear “light has come into the world”
- Jesus is the “light of the world”
- And in Romans, “let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”
This theme of light and showing our light to the world is the key to today’s readings.
In the first reading we hear Isaiah speaking in a spirit of thanksgiving. He is thanking God for all he has done through him.
God says – “you are my servant…through whom I show my glory”. This is key as it shows that God shines through us – the power and strength of the Holy Spirit that we have been given in grace is what we are to show to the world. These are to be our lumens that shine forth!
Isaiah was told that he was “formed as a servant from the womb”, just as each one of us is formed with unique gifts and talents that only our own candles will have.
In the psalm we have sung – “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will.” This phrasing is important because it shows us that when we shine our lives out for those to see – it only works if we are doing His will and not our own!
We shine forth to show God’s love and mercy and forgiveness to all those around us, not for the spotlight to be shining on ourselves.
The psalm also teaches us that we are to have “ears open to obedience” and “God’s law in our hearts”.
Always we are called to have God’s message as the focus and source of our candlelight!
In the second reading which is the first 3 lines of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we hear two key messages: Paul is “called to be an apostle by the will of God” and we are “called to be holy”
Both of these are important as we see that even the most famous preacher of the gospel, St. Paul, doesn’t focus on himself – he was called by the will of God.
The beautiful message today is that we are called by the same will of God and we are empowered to be holy by the same gift of the Holy Spirit that Paul was.
Paul may have been knocked down by the light of Christ on the road to Damascus, but we receive the exact same light of Christ at our own baptisms! There is only one Holy Spirit who through the centuries has carried God’s message to each and every one of us.
When Paul says, “Grace and peace to you”, it echoes what we hear at the beginning of each mass – “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”
The grace and the peace are the same as 2000 years ago, with the same source in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And then we hear in the gospel today this beautiful story of John the Baptist and Christ at the Jordan just after Christ’s baptism.
John points his own disciples towards Christ and says, “Behold the Lamb of God”. His supporters would have known the Old Testament reference he was making to the “gentle lamb led to the slaughter” that was prophesized by Jeremiah and Isaiah.
They would have known that he was telling them this is the Messiah who would redeem the Jewish nation by his sacrifice and would be a conquering lamb like king David.
John knows his role, he is not the Messiah, he says “this is the reason I came – that he might be made known”.
John knows his calling is based on his unique gifts and this should cause us to pause and think of the gifts that God has given to us individually. What is the talent that I have that is to shine forth so that people can see my connection to Christ?
The question we have is how much light is shining out from our Spirit, and if we have grown dim or dull over time, how do we now increase our lumens?
There are 2 ways to do this:
- We have to make sure we are connected to the power – the light bulb doesn’t work if it isn’t connected! This means that we have to make sure our prayer life is strong and that we receive the “medicine” of the Eucharist to give us strength.
- We have to make sure that our lights are not covered in dust and dirt, etc. It is amazing isn’t it that dust accumulates so slowly over time, but if you look after a while you can wipe off the layer of white with your finger. Sin is the same, it creeps slowly into our lives unannounced, but we have power through reconciliation to wipe the bulb clean!
So then what kind of light are we shining forth? If the source is the Holy Spirit, then the candle power that shines forth are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
We shine forth kindness, gentleness, peace, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, patience, joy and of course love.
The more we see these fruits in action in our lives, the more we know our light is shining brightly.
We hear in the bible “No one lights a lamp to put it under the tub – they put it on a lampstand where it shines for everyone in the house.” You are that lamp, shining brightly for all to see!
So, this week ask yourself this one question when you pray “How many lumens am I?”