Fourth Sunday after Easter

Today’s propers continue to give us practical instruction on living the “resurrected life” of Christ. The Gospel gives us our second notice that the Holy Ghost will soon come, and His mission will be to complete the work of Christ in us so that we will continue to progress in living the resurrected life. The whole of today’s liturgy exhorts us to look to Heaven as the source of blessings, while virtuously bearing with the troubles that the world has to offer. The Collect sums up these thoughts, when it very gracefully asks that “among the changing things of the world, may our hearts be fixed where there are true joys.”

Epistle. The Epistle from St. James gives us that Apostle’s down-to-earth explanation of living the heavenly life. The chapter of which this is a part begins with a famous exhortation to patience amid trials. We should count ourselves blessed when under trial, says the Apostle, because trials give us patience and “patience hath a perfect work” — meaning that patience makes us perfect by conforming us to the image of the suffering Christ and making us look to God for our deliverance.

Gifts. While exhorting us to live the life of virtue, St. James also reminds us that we are recipients of precious gifts: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”

We are the recipients of something greater than ourselves, something from above. In the Holy Trinity there is no change. We are subject to change, but being anchored in the life of God, we can have a holy stability amid life’s constant vicissitudes. How grateful the thought of this should make us! Sometime, if you have nothing else to thing about while praying, perhaps while you are making your thanksgiving, consider this verse for a moment and realize that you are a recipient of such precious gifts. Many a saint was made by realizing how much they have to be grateful for and how ungrateful they have been until now.

With meekness receive…” Reminding us once again of our baptism, the Apostle points out that we receive these heavenly gifts as God’s children, for he has “begotten us by the word of truth.” We are born again by Faith and Baptism, by the Word of God. We have a duty ever to remain steadfast in that Word. We also have a dependency on it, for the continual communication of supernatural life is something that we need in order to grow and persevere in grace and Christian virtue. For this reason, even though we have already “received” the word, St. James exhorts us to avoid anger, putting off human passion and “with meekness receive the ingrafted word which is able to save your souls.” Meekness restrains anger; it’s a form of temperance that moderates inordinate resentment of the actions or character of another. This helps to keep us from being petty. When we are petty, or when our souls are consumed with anger at our fellow man, we stifle the grace of God, we slow down or destroy in ourselves the ingrafted word which is able to save our souls — note, “is able to,” not “will.” No matter what the “once-saved-always-saved” advocates say, we can lose our salvation.

Gospel Today’s Gospel continues, in a fashion, the subject of the epistle. “I am going to Him who sent me,” says Our Lord. This is the second warning we have that the Ascension is going to take place. There is only one more Sunday before it happens. We should look up to where Jesus is going, for he is not going in order to leave us, but to come to us in an even greater way by sending us the Holy Ghost. The “good and perfect gifts” that come from the Father of lights include the sending of his Son, the ingrafted Word, and the sending of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete or Comforter. The Holy Ghost is going to come to complete the work that Jesus came to do, and Jesus’ sensible presence will not help that work because the Apostles must now live by a more interior guidance of their Master, a guidance that will come by the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Three-Fold Judgment. Jesus tells the Apostles that the Holy Ghost will convince the world of sin, of justice and of judgment. What does that mean? Our Lord explained this himself: “Of sin because they do not believe in Me; of justice because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no more; and of judgment because the prince of this world has already been judged.” In other words, the Holy Ghost, by assisting the work of the Apostles and the Church, will convince the world that they sinned by crucifying Our Lord. This happened when many were “cut to the heart” at the preaching of St. Peter on Pentecost, being convinced and convicted in their consciences. Next, the Holy Ghost will convict the world of justice, because, even though the Founder of the Church is Ascending to be with His Father, the Church Herself will continue his work, making justice to spread throughout the world and showing Jews and gentiles alike that their ideas of justice are either wrong or, at best, incomplete. The holiness of the Church and her saints is the Holy Ghost’s manifestation of what real justice is. Finally, the Holy Ghost will convict the world of judgment because the prince of this world is already judged, meaning that, the Devil, who is the prince of this world, is vanquished, conquered, and cast out by Christ. The Holy Ghost will show this by giving the Apostles and the Church after them power over demons and over their followers. By casting out devils, overturning pagan temples, and conquering idolatry’s strangle-hold of the gentiles, the Apostles will show the power and judgment of the Holy Ghost continuing the power and judgment of Christ.

The Work of the Holy Ghost. That’s what the Holy Ghost will do to the world. What will he to for the faithful? He will lead them into all truth by illuminating the Apostles and the Church after them to preach God’s word infallibly. In so doing, we will make the “ingrafted word, which is able to save our souls” to increase, in each of us individually, and in the world as a whole. This is continuing the work of the Incarnate Word: “For He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He will hear He will speak…” And what the Holy Ghost “hears” is what he receives from the Father and the Son. It is the same as what the Son received from the Father. This is why the Holy Ghost will not come to start a new church or a new “era of the Holy Ghost”— no Pentecostalism, no “Charismatic Movement” is the authentic movement of the Holy Ghost. Jesus goes on to say “He will glorify Me, because He will receive of what is Mine and will declare it to you.” He will receive of what is mine — that is, my teachings, my doctrine. That is what he will give you. And my doctrine is not mine but his who sent me, our Lord says elsewhere. So it all goes back to what St. James said: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”

Let us all be grateful today to be the recipients of such gifts, and let us be sorry for our former ingratitude, asking God to give us meekness and patience in this changing and cruel world, that we may ever continue to be cooperative and docile recipients of his heavenly gifts.