I will begin with a short story.
Joe and George were farmers, and they were traveling to Pipestone for a farm show. They stopped in Montevideo for Mass because it was Sunday morning. When they got back to the car Joe said, “Wasn’t that a great homily?” George said, “Yes. It was good. A very good message. Very positive. But that homily didn’t have any pitchforks in it.”
What do you mean it didn’t have any pitchforks? Well, the preacher didn’t throw any pitchforks at me. He did not stab my conscience. He didn’t say anything that could convict me of sin. He convinced me about the Good News. He convinced me that my sins are forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but he didn’t convict me of anything. I fully expected that he would be able to convict me of something.
I share that story with you today because it contains two words which I think are very important: convict and convince! I think we should have those two words in mind whenever we look at a passage from the Bible…convict and convince!
What sin does this bible passage convict me of? What Good News does this bible passage convince me of? Now let’s look at the readings for today’s liturgy.
In the first reading we heard about the dissension in the early days of the church. Some of the church’s leaders were saying that Gentiles could become Christian if they believed in Jesus. Other church leaders were saying that the Gentiles had to join the Jewish religion before they could join the Christian religion. One day, all these leaders met in Jerusalem to see if a resolution could be reached. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, they did reach a compromise.
They decided that the Gentiles could become Christian without joining Judaism first; but only if they abandoned certain Gentile behaviors such as unlawful marriage and eating the meat which had been sacrificed to idols.
Now, how does that story convict us of sin and how does it convince us of Good News?
I think it reminds us of the times that we have said that certain people can’t be saved. It convicts us of being judgmental from time to time. And this story convinces us that the Holy Sprit will help us to resolve conflicts today just as the Holy Spirit helped the early Christians resolve their first major conflict. We don’t have to think that we have to handle everything alone. The Holy Spirit is here to help us.
Let’s turn to the second reading. An angel picks up St. John and carries him to the top of a mountain. From there he can see the holy city Jerusalem coming down from heaven. The heavenly Jerusalem has twelve walls with each wall representing one of the 12 apostles. The heavenly Jerusalem has twelve gates with each bearing the name of a tribe of Israel. And much to his surprise, the heavenly Jerusalem has no temple. Instead, the Lord God is the Temple. Now, does that bible passage convict us of anything?
Yes. It convicts us of sometimes looking down on the Jewish religion. And that is wrong because this passage says that the 12 tribes of Israel are in heaven. They are part of the heavenly Jerusalem and we are wrong whenever we assume that the followers of Judaism are not going to heaven. Let’s move on to the second question.
Does that passage convince us of any Good News? I think so. It says that the Lord God is the Temple. Even when we have no building to pray in, we can still pray. The Lord God is everywhere. We are always in the presence of God. We have a Temple to pray in no matter where we are because the Lord God is the Temple.
Having access is a big issue these days. We might not have access to our leaders. We might not have access to people of power. But we always have access to God. What Good News that is! We always have access to God. We are always in the Temple because God is the Temple and God is everywhere.
Moving on to today’s gospel…….
We see Jesus is presenting his farewell message to his disciples and he can see that they are afraid of the future. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. I am going away; but I am sending you the Holy Spirit to be your constant companion.” What does this reading convict us of? It convicts us of being pessimistic from time to time. We worry about the future. We lose hope. That is our sin. We think that the future will be worse than the past or the present.
What is the Good News which this reading convinces us of? It convinces us that our future will be good because the Holy Spirit will be in our future. There is no reason to be afraid of the future. The future will be good because it will be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Now it’s time for a summary. Today’s Bible readings convict us of sins like being judgmental and being pessimistic. And they convince us that we have been saved and that the future will be good because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, will be with us at all times.