APRIL 30, 2005,- HOMILY: ACTS 16: 1-10; JOHN 15: 18- 21

THE APOSTLES WERE PREVENTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM PREACHING THE MESSAGE IN THE PROVINCE OF ASIA. ‘COME OVER TO MACEDONIA AND HELP US.’ After Jesus rose from the dead, all four of the Gospel accounts inform us that he himself, for a short time, continued to instruct his closest followers in the ways of his teaching. His chief concern was to instruct them in how to understand his own person. St Luke states the matter in concise form: " There are the things which I spoke to you about when I was still with you, that it is necessary that all that is written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms about me must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (24: 44, 45)." Shortly after he rose from the dead, he ascended into the presence of the Father, leaving them to carry out the mission he left behind. "Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28: 19)."

Before he departed, Jesus made a solemn promise saying "I am with you all days until the end of the world." These are the last words of Matthew’s Gospel (28: 20) and were never forgotten. How could it be that the Lord would leave the earth and yet remain always with his followers? St. John addressed this question in his account. "When the Holy Spirit, whom I shall send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will give witness of me. And you will bear witness for you have been with me from the beginning" (John: 15: 26, 27). And so it happened that the Apostles and their associates confidently trusted themselves to the guidance of the Spirit and relied on the strength He supplied. Today’s first reading illustrates this manner of proceeding with all desirable clarity. THE APOSTLES WERE PREVENTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM PREACHING THE MESSAGE IN THE PROVINCE OF ASIA. And in a dream Paul was shown a Macedonian who exhorted him saying ‘COME OVER TO MACEDONIA AND HELP US.’ The apostle confident that this dream was inspired by the Spirit of Jesus promptly acted upon it. His helpers shared this same confidence that Jesus continued to accompany his witnesses and was present to them in and through the Holy Spirit.

The Lord had promised to remain with his followers all days, even to the end of the world. By sending his Holy Spirit he fulfilled that promise during the lifetime of the apostles and continues to remain with his disciples to the present time. He does not guide and strengthen everyone with equal clarity and spiritual force- far from it. But to those who, like the apostles, surrendered in faith and entrusted themselves to his care, he is ever responsive, giving indications of his will and creating openings for spiritual growth as he did for Paul and his companions on this occasion as they were about to undertake a new mission. Our monastic Fathers, and St Benedict among them, were persuaded that the same Spirit who spoke to the heart of the apostles speaks to those who read the word of God and who receive the word given by a man of God. And so, reading and reflection on the revealed word became a constant feature of their prayer in their search for union with the Lord. The word cleanses as well as enlightens the heart if only we take it in with faith and desire to be guided by its truth as it comes to life under the influence of the Spirit.

"As your word unfolds it gives light and the simple understand. (Ps 18:129)"

This word of God is found not only in Scripture and spiritual writings; our Fathers knew well it is also hidden in his creation, waiting to disclose its message concerning its Creator and thereby purifying the heart. Evagrius, already in the 4th century taught that: "the knowledge of bodies and of incorporeal things is a book of God in which by means of knowledge the purified spirit regularly writes. In this book is recorded also the knowledge of the principles of Providence and of judgment. It is by this book that God is known as the Creator, as wise and as judge." May we so read God’s words In Scripture, in those persons we meet and in nature- wherever we discover them- so as to be remade by them and live by their light and strength.


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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