Homily, Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter
Today is a day of goodbyes. Three years St. Paul spent with the Church in Ephesus, and today he encourages their leaders to remain faithful to the Gospel and to watch over the flock in his absence. Three years Jesus lived and worked and ate and drank with his Apostles, and today Jesus continues His prayer at the Last Supper, entrusting them to the care of His heavenly Father. And for four years I have lived and taken classes and seen manifestazioni [public protests] and put up with scioperi [strikes] and experienced some wonderful history, art, architecture, food, drink, and friendships here in Rome, and today is likely my last time preaching before I say “Ciao for now” to this eternal city.
But, as often happens, goodbyes are also occasions for new beginnings. St. Paul will set sail for Jerusalem and eventually for Rome to continue his mission to the nations of the earth. Jesus will hand himself over to accomplish His work of redemption, on the Cross and through His Resurrection. I will head home to South Dakota to be ordained a priest, to preach the Gospel and to give new life through the sacraments. And today, Robert and Debra will renew their marriage vows and pray that their life together will continue to be a source of life and joy to each other and to everyone around them. With the whole Church, we give thanks for all the blessings God has already given to us, and we pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we approach Pentecost this weekend, and everything that lies ahead.
I am always encouraged by the Scripture that tells us that even God’s weakness is stronger than human strength, that even when I feel like I’ve given everything I’ve got and still come up short, God’s grace is more than enough. In the person of Christ on the Cross, God shows His all-powerful weakness, the madness of His love for us that would submit even to death to rescue us from our sins. God’s weakness redeemed all of creation, something that human strength could never accomplish. And if the weakness of God could accomplish all that, just imagine what the strength and power of God can do. The Psalm today speaks of God’s glorious power, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we see the effects of that power. It transforms the fear and passivity of the Apostles into unstoppable zeal and love for Jesus Christ, leading them to accomplish the same works that Christ Himself performed, and even to rejoice in suffering for His Name. Come, Holy Spirit. Fill our hearts with the power of God. Bring a new beginning of grace to all of us and to all creation. Renew in us the love that conquers all and drives out all fear. Come, Holy Spirit.