First Reading: Acts 16:22-34
The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, “Men, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 138:1-3, 7-8
I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing thy praise; I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word. On the day I called, thou didst answer me, my strength of soul thou didst increase. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life; thou dost stretch out thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, and thy right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me; thy steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of thy hands.
Gospel: John 16:5-11
But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, `Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I have to admit to enjoying the sheer muttonheadedness of the Apostles of the Gospels. Here they are, sitting at the feet of the master. Listening to Him teach, day in and day out. Walking with Him. Eating with Him. And they just. don’t. get it.
Jesus teaches them in parables, using imagery from their daily lives to make His lessons easier to grasp, and when they are still totally lost, He has to just spell it out for them in plain English (or plain Aramaic, I guess). He sets a constant example of humility and service to others, but finds them arguing over who should get the best seat in Heaven. They watch him feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish, and when Jesus is surrounded by four thousand followers, still ask Him, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” (*facepalm*)
They are confident and brash one moment, and petty and cowardly the next. Eleven of the twelve flee in fear, and desert our Lord as He suffers and dies on the cross.
And yet . . .
The men of the Acts of the Apostles are wise and noble. They are bold and fearless. They tirelessly work to advance the church that Jesus founded here on earth. One after the next they valiantly face gruesome martyrdoms rather than deny the divinity of Christ.
What happened? The Holy Spirit happened. And it changed EVERYTHING.
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Jesus explains it all in today’s Gospel, but since it hadn’t happened yet, we can only imagine the disciples were pretty confused. Then, just as Jesus says it will, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes down and fills the hearts of Mary and the apostles, and what was impossible becomes possible.
It happens for us too, in confirmation, the sacrament in which the Holy Spirit is given to those already baptized in order to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.
Strong and Perfect. Soldiers. That’s us. Muttonheads no more.
What might WE be able to accomplish if we allowed the Holy Spirit to really work through us today?
Kendra Tierney can be found blogging, homeschooling, and gestating Tierney baby number eight in Los Angeles, CA. You can find out more about her here.