2021 7th Sunday of Easter (B)
As I prepared my homily there were two events uppermost in my mind: the first is the lockdown and how it is coming to an end, but now an Indian variant is causing us to question: will it spoil everything we have achieved? And the second event is the killing and violence that is going on in the Holy Land. There are terrible scenes on our news channels, particularly the bombing and the tears of those who have lost loved ones; it is heart breaking. At first sight there does not appear to be any link between these two events and what we are celebrating today: the 7th Sunday of Easter; the Sunday after the Ascension before Pentecost. But there is. The gospel always relates to the present; the events we read about in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles happened 2000 years ago, but they have an influence on our lives as I speak.
Jesus is being crucified today as he was all those years ago. Every time someone is killed he dies again. When we suffer loss and isolation because of the Pandemic Jesus suffers loss and isolation too. He is here today; living among us; suffering with us; crying with us; frustrated with us that nothing seems to get better. But he also brings us hope; that invisible but most important of virtues: hope. It is hope that keeps us going. We can actually put up with anything as long as we have hope; as long as we believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It isn’t wishful thinking; Christ gives us reason to be hopeful.
Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit will be given to us anew. This Sunday, he speaks of joy: he prays to the Father, “while still in the world I say these things to share my joy with them to the full.” …. “to share my joy with them…” Jesus, like us, did not have an easy life; for him too it was not a bed of roses; especially the last three years. But in spite of all he went through he had joy in his heart. And this joy is given to us through the Spirit. Like Jesus we too suffer a lot in life. True we are not in Jerusalem right now or in the Gaza Strip but we have our own reasons to suffer. But the joy of Christ is deeper than our sufferings can ever be. It is not therefore something superficial, but rather, this joy touches us and lifts up our whole being. Have you ever cried with pure joy? Cried because you were so happy? But you worry that it can’t last. But the joy of Christ, given to us by the Spirit, will last; it can never be taken from us. The Holy Spirit is coming not to take us out of the world, with all its problems and suffering but to give us a heart to endure; a heart full of love and joy, that no suffering, no pain can touch; indeed, pain and suffering just increase the joy. That sounds strange, a contradiction: how can pain & suffering increase joy? But those who have been touched by the Spirit will know its true.