Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on May 24 and 25 on the 6th Sunday of Easter Cycle A at the 6:00PM (Vigil), 8:00AM, and 10:30AM Masses
A little girl came up to the priest as he was greeting parishioners after Mass, and said, “This week during religion class we learned that God is bigger than anything. Is that true?” inquired the little girl. “Yes, that’s true,” answered the priest, happy that the faith formation program seemed to be doing its job. “God is certainly bigger than anything.” “Well for being so big, he sure is hard to find,” she said. “I’ve looked all over the place and I can’t find him.” “You don’t have to look for God,” replied the priest. “He is inside of you.” “I never thought to look there,” she admitted. “But if God is inside of me and God is bigger than anything, then I better get bigger to make more room for him. How can I do that?” The priest laughed. “You make more room for God by growing spiritually. If you want to grow physically, you eat your vegetables.” The little girl thought about it for a moment and said, “Well if God is bigger than anything he sure must like eating vegetables!”
Just like the little girl we are all searching for God and sometimes we have trouble recognizing or finding him. The gospel readings proclaimed during the Easter season show us that the disciples had similar problems finding and recognizing Jesus after his death and resurrection. On the Third Sunday of Easter we heard that Jesus walked with the disciples on the way to Emmaus and yet they failed to recognize him. On Divine Mercy Sunday we heard of the doubts of Thomas and how he wanted physical proof that Jesus had risen, too see him and touch him, before he would believe. And on Easter Sunday we heard how the disciples found the tomb empty and Jesus missing, making them feel alone and abandoned and filled and sadness.
So often we are like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, failing to recognize that our Lord is walking with us, leading us and guiding us. Just like Thomas we sometimes have doubts that Jesus is present in our lives, rather than being people of faith. And sometimes we feel like the disciples at the empty tomb, feeling abandoned and alone, especially during the tough times: when we lose something like a job or a loved one, when we are challenged by family troubles, marital problems, or drug and alcohol addictions, or when we or someone we love faces serious problems like an illness or surgery. So often during these times we experience fear and sadness and we ask, “Where are you, Lord?”
Despite all the troubles and doubts that we experience in our search for God, a recent Gallup poll found that 92% of Americans believe in God, and I would guess that if they asked the other 8% if they ever believed in God that most of them would agree that at some time in their life they did believe in God. The truth is that people find and lose God all time. But today’s gospel helps us to see that there is no need to look for God. Jesus says to the disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.” The same promised Holy Spirit that the disciples received on Pentecost descended upon us at our baptism and our confirmation, and to this very day that same Spirit and love of God has been dwelling inside of us. Like the little girl we seldom consider that God is so close to us that he is inside of us.
First, we should consider what God dwelling within us does for us. When the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit they were completely transformed. They no longer hid in fear and sadness, but were filled with peace and joy, and these ordinary men were able to travel to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel. Like the little girl we need to make more room for the God that is inside us, to allow the power of the Spirit and love of that is inside of us to lead us and guide us. If we do this, like the apostles we too will do extraordinary things in Jesus’ name and we will experience the peace and joy of God.
Next, we must consider that because God is indwelling in us, God is always with us, no matter what we are doing, not just when we are here at Church, but wherever we are (at school, at work, at the mall) and no matter what we are doing (performing a ministry, driving, surfing the internet, anything). If we are eating vegetables, God is probably eating vegetables as well. Well, not really, but we must remember that because God dwells inside of us, our bodies are temples of God and everything we do in some way affects the sacred inside us, especially sin. That does not mean that when we sin God is also sinning, because he is without sin, but when we sin we separate ourselves from God, and we close the doors of our temple that lead to God, separating us from his peace, love, and joy and from the power of the Spirit of God and the extraordinary things that it allows us to do.
The indwelling God within us, he helps us to avoid sin and helps us to do good things, like keep the commandments. This is important because in today’s gospel Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” By making the commandments a part of who we are, we are deepening our relationship with God, and Jesus reveals himself to us. Here again, we do not have to search for God, because Jesus promises to come to us.
Finally, another important thing that we must consider is that because God is indwelling in us, Christ should be revealed to others through us. That is what the New Evangelization is really all about, revealing Christ and the Gospel to others. In his recently released pastoral letter “The Church Evangelizing”, Bishop Zubik states, “Evangelization… is the extension of the friendship with Jesus to others through us…to be the face, the hands, the heart, and the voice of Christ to those who long to hear a friendly voice and to see a friendly face.” Pope Francis said, “Bringing Christ to others means we live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, and love.” Evangelization is not so much talking about Christ, but revealing Christ to others by being Christ for them; not so much talking about the Gospel, but living it. When we share the Spirit and love God that dwells within us with others, those who are searching for God find him, and those who need God encounter him.
In the Gallup poll I mentioned earlier 75% of Americans consider themselves Christians. The more important question is how many of us live like Christians; living like God dwells inside of us, like we are temples of God. It’s certainly not easy, but when we make more room for God by turning to the Holy Spirit our lives are transformed, Jesus reveals himself to us, and we are able to do extraordinary things in his name. The power of the Spirit and love of God that allows us to do all of these things dwells in each and every one of us. Rejoice and be glad!