01 June 2006

Also, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter

You should not be afraid or undone when you suffer in body or mind for the sake of the Faith. For all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. And Our Lord tells us why this is so: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Therefore, you must be serious and watchful in your prayers. For in whatever way you are afflicted, and whenever you endure heartache for the sake of righteousness, then rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. And do not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For you do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. These you must resist, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Yet in today's Gospel Our Lord tells us not just about suffering and misery. Today He promises that at every turn, and against every trial or temptation or heartache or turmoil, whether small or great, whether in mind or body—there is the Holy Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, to help and comfort you.

But above all, today Our Lord urges us that when we suffer, when we feel heartache, when we have misery, when we are downcast, when we are falling into despondency and despair—when these days comes, He says, “remember that I told you of them.” Listen to Him who says, “I told you of them.” It is as if He saying this:

I am going to die for the sake of your life and salvation; I am going to redeem you with My blood; I am going to aid you always in your tribulations; I am going to give you eternal rewards after your tribulations—and now, I hold out to you great solace, and a great gift of consolation. To those engaged in strife for My sake, I promise the gift of My Holy Spirit who will comfort and console you, and strengthen you—and lead you safely in the path that I have already trod for your sake. (St Bede, paraphrased)

We are prone to forget both the Holy Spirit and the consolation He is, and the soothing relief He gives. We pray earnestly to the Father, and we cry out to Our Lord Jesus. We say, “Help us, deliver us, rescue us; lead me, guide me, strengthen me; embolden me, enliven me, and warm my heart.” And today our dear Lord Jesus answers that prayer by saying, “I have both done this, and will do it again. For I send you the Holy Spirit every time I give you My Word, every time I forgive your sins, every time I minister to you through My pastors, every time I feed you with My own Body and Blood, and every time I speak to your spirit with My holy Gospel at the Holy Mass. For there is the Spirit of Truth. And He is the Spirit who not only speaks the Truth, but also gives you the Truth that I am. And in that way He comforts you—for He plants Me home within you heart and mind, and within your flesh and blood.”

Such comfort the Lord Jesus gives us from the Father in the Spirit that He sends. And it is this comfort—and this Comforter—who makes good on Our Lord’s promise that He will not leave us as orphans.

An excerpt from the Exaudi (Sunday after the Ascension) sermon preached 5.28.06 at Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit.

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