Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C – Every Christian soul is a Temple where God truly dwells.
May 22, 2022.
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling in him.” This instruction from this Sunday’s Gospel (John 14:23-29) builds on the statement of faith found in the Prologue in the Gospel of John. The central message is the Incarnation of the Lord: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The exact translation is that “He pitched his tent among us.” The dwelling of God on earth has a deeper meaning. He is not just among us. He is within us as a worshiping Body, the Church. He is within us in the union of all believers into the Mystical Body of Christ. He is all this and much more. He is within each of us. We can speak to God all day, not addressing ourselves to some being “out there somewhere,” not even addressing ourselves to “the man upstairs.” We can speak to God within us. Every Christian soul is a Temple where God truly dwells.
There is a story about a Roman soldier from the first century of Christianity. He went off on a long military campaign, leaving his pregnant wife. While he was gone, she gave birth. Soon thereafter, she converted to Christianity, was baptized, and had her child baptized as well. Meanwhile, the soldier also met some Christians and heard their explanations of what it meant to be baptized into this new faith. But he was not able to receive baptism before the campaign ended. When he returned home, his wife was overjoyed to see him, but nervous about what his reaction would be to her baptism. She decided to break the news gradually. First she showed him their child, mentioning in an offhand way that he had been baptized as a Christian. The husband looked shocked and became quiet. He looked again at the child, thoughtfully. Then knelt down beside the crib. He bowed his head, closed his eyes, and, silently, began to pray. His wife was puzzled. She knelt next to him and asked what he was doing. He looked at her and said, “I am praying to the one true God, for if our son has been baptized, he has himself become a holy place. Christ the Lord, his Father the Creator of all, and the living Holy Spirit have made their home in his heart, so we can pray to God there.”
God cares for each of us and He dwells within us. Wherever we go, we bring God with us. Whatever we do, we do together with Him. He is not just “the man upstairs.” He is “the presence within.” There are many ways that God is present in the world. Some ways that God is present are deeper, more intense than other ways. The deepest, most intense presence of the Lord is in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament. We need this presence. We take this presence within us, at least once a week. We pray before this presence when we enter into Eucharistic adoration. We offer this presence as the sacrificial victim to the Father every time we celebrate Mass. We need this presence to sustain our lives.
The second deepest, intense presence of God in the world is in the Word of God, Sacred Scripture. The bible is not just a book, even though the word bible means book. Deep within the words of the Bible is the Word of God. Pope Francis offers us this encouragement: “The Word become flesh and dwelt among us. ‘Dwell’ is the verb to signify this reality: It expresses a total sharing, a great intimacy. And this is what God wants: He wants to dwell with us, not to remain distant.” That is why we read the Bible and are changed and molded by the words on which we meditate. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Presence of God in the Sacraments, and in the Word are the great gifts of Easter. These and so many other ways we experience God are Grace, his Amazing Grace. The Gateway to this increasing grace in our lives is itself the very presence of God. This presence allows us to receive the most intense way that God is present. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling in him.”
The Word of God has power to set us free from sin, doubt, and deception. We need to follow the principles of God’s Word so we can grow in trust, tranquility, integrity, humility, and generosity. Jesus made it clear that he did not come to condemn us, but rather to bring us abundant life and freedom from the oppression of sin, Satan, and a world in opposition to God’s truth and goodness. We condemn ourselves when we reject God’s word of truth, life, and wisdom. It is one thing to live in ignorance due to lack of knowledge and understanding, but another thing to disdain the very source of truth who is Christ Jesus, the Word of God sent from the Father. Jesus says that his word – which comes from the Father and which produces eternal life in us – will be our judge. This presence exists in many ways in the world and in many degrees of intensity. Its greatest intensity is in the Eucharist and then in all the Sacraments. Next is the Word of God in the Bible. Then just like the baby in the crib of the Roman soldier, there is also a presence within each of us. This presence is the indwelling of God. We should cherish and nourish this presence every day of our lives. But we can easily forget about this presence. Our lives are busy. Even when we have days off, or a few hours to ourselves, we are busy. So we need to schedule daily prayer.
Brothers and sisters, as St John Mary Viannay said: “No prayer is ever lost.” Pope Francis also said in his May 8, 2022 Regina Caeli: “Those who listen to others know how to listen to the Lord, too, and vice versa. And they experience something very beautiful, that is, that the Lord himself listens – he listens to us when we pray to him, when we confide in him, when we call on him.” and in his May 11, 2022 address to the General Audience: ““Prayer must be like this, spontaneous, like that of a son with his father, who tells him everything [that] comes into his mouth because he knows that the father understands him.” We need to talk to God throughout the day, true, but if we don’t schedule a time for daily prayers, we will get so involved in our day that we’ll forget to talk to the one who is within us. Perhaps we can pray when we are washing up in the morning. For parents, there should always be prayer time when you put your children to sleep for the night, first with them and then together, mother and father, for them. For others prayer time might work after the dishes and before sitting before the screen, TV or computer. What prayers should we say? The Rosary, the chaplet of Divine Mercy, even just Our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed, and so forth. These prayers have value, but their value is not in the words, they are not magical incantations, their value enters into a deeper level when they become the background music to our speaking with God. As we say the prayers we focus on the One who is within us, and we speak to Him, we listen to Him. The more we are attentive to the voice of God speaking within us, leading and guiding us, the more we begin to understand His indwelling presence. This awareness of His presence will bring us peace which we know comes from the love of God and expresses itself in our love for people.
As St. Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.” Faith in God’s indwelling presence leads us to the answer of the question above. The answer is one that God and God alone can give to us. We can share our faith with others, give witness to His presence in our lives, and give those around us the answer to that question through faith. How do I know God dwells within me? The answer: Because I see Him there, I speak to Him there, and He speaks to me. Jesus tells us to talk to God as a child speaks with his or her Father. He loves us so deep that we are His children. He tells us to throw ourselves into continuing the work of establishing His Way, His Kingdom. We have been charged to bring the Gospel to the nations, as well as to the neighbourhood. He tells us that He will satisfy our needs if we ask him, both the physical and spiritual, the need for bread and the need for forgiveness. So we should pray for help, help for our family, healing for those who are sick, help in our work or our school, help just getting older and entering into new phases of life, protect us from the attacks of evil. Amen.