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IHS Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension—2 June AD 2019 Ave Maria!

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“When the Paraclete cometh, Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He shall give testimony of Me: and you shall give testimony, because you are with Me from the beginning. These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized.”[1]

Today, our Lord gives us the good news that when He ascends into heaven He will send the Holy Ghost to be our Advocate in His place. (The word “Paraclete” is Greek (παράκλητος) for one who is an advocate, a helper, or a consoler—if spelled with a capital letter, it refers to the Holy Ghost.) The Apostles had been with Jesus for about three years, and the possibility of Him going way must have seemed frightening. It was always our Lord who answered the challenges of the Romans and the Pharisees—and He would soon be gone. But, somehow or another, the Spirit of Truth would take over. This was encouraging, but in the next breath, Jesus began to speak about the certainty of persecution.

“Whoever kills you will think that he is doing service for God”! That should certainly make the persecutors enthusiastic—and frighten the persecuted! And the history of persecution he always been enthusiastic—even in more recent times when the persecutors had no concern for serving God. The Jews persecuted in the name of the true God; the Romans in the name of their false “gods.” The Viking's “god” was plunder, as was the Moslems' “god,” although they dressed him up with the name used by the Arabs for the true God. After the Moslem threat was reduced, the persecutors were other Christians—those who defied the authority of the Church, wanting to make private interpretations of the Faith for themselves. Finally, in our time, the persecutors have come to deny God, encouraging false worship, killing unborn babies (and some already born babies), pretending to be the opposite sex, even establishing the worship of the devil. The modern persecutors claim freedom to do as they please, but they prosecute all who want to be free to not do what they do.

In retrospect, we see that, over the ages, the persecutors were always unable to subdue the Catholics. The persecutors were unable, precisely because Jesus has indeed sent the Spirit of Truth to strengthen and guide His disciples. In the readings of Pentecost we hear about Peter and the Apostles preaching to huge crowds, miraculously bring understood by the speakers of various languages, and making 3,000 converts on the day of Pentecost alone!.[2]

Yet there were, as our Lord predicted, martyrdoms. But even in the face of painful death we have had—in all the centuries of the Church—men and women willing to give up their lives, rather than betray the Faith. Again, we see the Holy Ghost at work. You can read the account of Saint Stephen, the first martyr—fearlessly preaching the Faith, being stoned to death, just after begging God’s forgiveness of his murderers in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.[3]

In modern publications you can also read the accounts of contemporary martyrs, displaying the same characteristics. There are many, but I will give you just one by way of example: Maximillian Maria Kolbe. Fr. Kolbe preached not only devotion to the Blessed Virgin (the Immaculata)—he also cared for many persecuted Jews and for the seriously ill—he also preached against the Communists and the Nazis. Ultimately, he died at Auschwitz, volunteering to be starved to death in place of a man who feared to die leaving a widow and children. He starved for two weeks before the Nazis got impatient and poisoned him with carbolic acid.[4] Again, we see the Holy Ghost at work.

Kolbe’s canonization as a martyr brought about some debate, as he had not been killed out of hatred for the Catholic Faith. He was not asked to deny some point of doctrine, nor to burn incense to the “gods.” Kolbe was declared to be a “martyr of charity”—dying because of the Nazi’s fanatical attempt to murder whole classes of human beings—like Jews, Gypsies, and priests—an assault on the Christian doctrine of love for fellow man.

And, that brings us to Saint Peter’s advice in today’s epistle, with its “constant mutual charity.”[5] In the missal, the opening verse (1 Peter 4:7) is truncated—the opening words of the verse are dropped—probably to avoid confusion. We read: “be prudent, and watch in prayers.” The full verse reads: “But the end of all is at hand. Be prudent therefore, and watch in prayers.” “The end of all is at hand.” It is clear that Saint Peter was writing about a sort of “end-times” scenario—maybe not the general end of the world, but the end that comes to every human life and not just to the martyr.

“The end of all is at hand.” If we are to have the advocacy of the Holy Ghost as we try to live the Christian life in the world,

☩ We must “Have a constant mutual charity among ourselves for charity covers a multitude of sins.”

☩ We must show “hospitality towards one another without murmuring”—grateful to be able to share what we have:

☩ We must share, particularly, the graces we receive from God—“as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

☩ We must speak with “the words of God.”

☩ We must serve with the power which God administers; “that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

If we live our lives in such a way that, in us, God is honored through Jesus Christ, we are assured of the advocacy of the Holy Ghost. And with the advocacy of the Holy Ghost we will be able to deal with the difficulties of life, and with the difficulties of death. With the Holy Ghost as our Advocate, natural death, accident, and glorious martyrdom will all bring us to the presence of God in heaven.

NOTES:

[1] Gospel: John xv:26-xvi:4 http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drl&bk=50&ch=15&l=26-#x

[2] Acts ii: http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=51&ch=2&l=1-#x

[3] Acts vii http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drl&bk=51&ch=7&l=1-#x

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilian_Kolbe

[5] 1 Peter iv: 7-11 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=67&ch=4&l=7-#x

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