Jesus gives his Spirit to those who love him and keep his Commandments.

05-21-2017HomiliesFr. Tony Okolo

The first reading of today’s liturgy, taken from the Acts of Apostles, tells us how Philip took the gospel message to Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them and the people welcomed the message. In the second reading, Peter encourages us never to give up our faith due to the persecution and challenges we may encounter since Jesus first suffered for us and left us an example to follow. Then in the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples; “If you love me, you will keep mycommandment.”

Beginning with the first reading, one significant event that happened before Philip took the gospel toSamaria was the execution of Stephen which was approved by Saul (Paul) and the persecution ofChristians. In Acts 8:1-4 it says “And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul laid waste theChurch and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them toprison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” This shows that persecutionof Christians has been there from the beginning of the early Church but the Church survived becauseGod’s Spirit was with the Church all the time and most importantly that those who have accepted themessage never allowed persecution to be an obstacle to proclaiming the power in the word of Godand spreading the gospel message.

Today, the Church faces many attacks and persecutions, from every angle in the family lives, marriage institution, the priesthood and her teaching on human life. There is a deliberate attempt todethrone God and the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church from our society. There is concertedeffort to assign the human person the role of God and make the Church teaching less important today. As God’s divine institution His Spirit will always guide the church because he has made apromise that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18). But most importantly, hersurvival depends on how we the believers are willing to remain firm to defend the faith, amidst thesepersecutions and attacks. We are invited like Philip to proclaim our belief strongly against all theseattacks.

This is a similar message St. Peter gives in the second reading, where he encourages us “that it isbetter to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.” During the Easter season all our second readings come from the letter of St. Peter in which he exalts the Christians tokeep up the faith that has been received from Christ. He wants every Christian to be convinced of thefaith and be deeply convinced of the reason for which he/she believes so as to justify to oneself andothers the reason for the belief in God. The major justification for our faith in Christ is that Jesus died and rose from the dead and that is why we are confident that our belief is credible and our faith certain. This explains our hope in Christ and St. Peter wants us to be ready to give that as our reasonfor our faith. It also means that because we are certain of our conviction we should be ready to sufferfor doing good than give in to doing evil.

The final message in today’s liturgy is the words of Jesus to his disciples and to each of us. He says,“If you love me you will keep my commandment.” What Jesus implies in this statement is that there isonly one test of love and that is obedience. It was by his obedience that Jesus showed his love ofGod, and it is by our obedience that we must show our love for Jesus. To Jesus real love is not aneasy thing but, it is shown only in true obedience. This is also why in 1 Sam 15:22 when Saul givesreason that he did not carry out the instructions given to him by the prophet because he kept some ofthe sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord, Samuel replied, “Does the Lord, delight in burnt offeringsand sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is betterthan the fat of rams.” The obedience here implies our willingness to respond positively to the words of Jesus. How do we pay attention to his teaching and the teachings of the Church in our individuallives and family lives? The true test of our love for Jesus is our ability to keep to what he teaches.