Last Sunday I baptised two beautiful little babies. After the baptism I left the families at the sanctuary as they took some photos. I was heading to the sacristy when this little 2-year old kid came running after me. At first I didn’t mind him. But he continued to follow me. Still I didn’t stop to talk to him but then he gave an amazing comment which I never heard from a 2 year old kid before. He said: ‘You put water on Eden’s head before.’ I said ‘Yes I did.’ Then he asked me: ‘Why?’ I was caught by surprise. It is not only because I don’t know how to explain it to him in a way he could understand, but more so because of his age. I can’t believe that little kid had been observing me as I baptised and even formed an inquiry to himself. I tried to answer him but then another lady caught up with him. She also tried to explain it to him. I don’t know if that kid got anything out of our explanation. I am not convinced of my answer myself.
I’m sharing this with you because that innocent question of that little kid ‘why?’ evokes something in me as I was reflecting on the gospel for today. Jesus was hinting that he had to leave his disciples. If I were there, I would have also asked like that little kid why does he need to leave. I could have persuaded him to just stay with us on the grounds that we love his company, we love to listen to his words, we love to see him present with us as he is. Like the disciples, we could have said to him: ‘To whom shall we go now, you have the words of eternal life.’ But Jesus had reason to leave. He had to leave to prepare a place for us. He had to leave for the Holy Spirit to be active in us in our journey of faith.
The good thing about his leaving [through his death, resurrection and ascension] is that it opens for us more riches of God. It gives us opportunity to be the reflection of his light to others, just as the sun had to set fully in order for the moon to shine its full brightness. His leaving gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the paraclete, our lawyer, who will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus told us (Jn 14:23-29). And because of the Holy Spirit we come to see the fullness of God that Jesus has revealed in his life on earth. This same Holy Spirit is one that guides the Church through the centuries. It is the same Spirit of Jesus that sustains us as Church in the midst of persecutions, problems, trials, challenges, etc. It is the same Spirit that serves as the wisdom of the leaders of the Church starting from the Apostles until now. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can proudly say, the Church in which we belong to has been proven and tested by time and experience.
Over the centuries, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in the Church, in each one of us, and in our human experiences. One concrete example of the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church is in the first reading we have heard today. The Apostles and the elders of the Church had convened a Council in Jerusalem to resolve the issue of initiating people into the Church. Apparently, some Jewish converts to Christianity said to the Gentile converts that they need to be circumcised to be part of the Church. This means, they have to follow the Jewish custom first before coming into the Christian Church. This was the issue. The Apostles resolved this with the help of the Holy Spirit. So the apostles had this notice for the Gentile converts: ‘It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: abstention from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, etc.’ (Acts 15:1-2;22-29)
In our time too, there are many ways that the Holy Spirit is at work. The election of Pope Francis is one. He wasn’t one of the ten strong contenders. He is not as young as many would have expected the new pope would be. But now he is showing us a lot of examples, in fact challenging all of us to have a lifestyle check. Another sign of the Spirit at work is this crisis of abuses in power and authority by some members of the Church. In crisis like this, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and of justice, is working on renewal, and empowering us to assess ourselves and our faith in Christ. The beauty of this Spirit is that it gives us abundant gifts, riches from God. The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has reflected on this during his homily at the Vigil with the young people during the World Youth Day in Sydney 2008. The Pope noted that this same Spirit has generously given us gifts that are “working within us, giving us direction and definition in our witness” to Christ and to our faith. The Pope then urged the young people and this is an invitation for us today who are here too: ‘that we turn to the Holy Spirit in order that we find the true meaning of renewal.’ The pope then concluded the homily by these words of assurance: ‘In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities, and nations.’
So as we continue our celebration today, let us assess our lives. Are we making ourselves available for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us? Another way to do this is to stop asking ‘why’ do we have to do this, and to start asking ourselves ‘how we might live out the Spirit of Christ in our daily lives.’