Reading (Acts 19:1-8) Gospel (St. John 16:29-33)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul, when he went to Ephesus, found these twelve men who were already people who believed in the Lord on one level, but when he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, he found out that they did not even know there was a Holy Spirit. Then he finds out that their baptism was the baptism of John. And so we see that the first baptism, the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, was a very powerful thing in the lives of these people. It got them turned around. They did not take it lightly. Yet, at the same time, it clearly was not the fullness of what they were called to have.
So too in the Gospel reading, then, Our Lord lets us know that there is a distinction in things. He tells us that as long as we are in the world we are going to have trouble. So even though we are baptized and we have the Holy Spirit, we are going to struggle, we are going to suffer in the world. Yet He tells us that even in the world there is another way, and that way is in Him. He tells us that He has conquered the world. Now His disciples at that point had already been baptized with the baptism of John and they are telling Him now, We believe in You. And He is saying, No, you really dont because you are all going to abandon Me. You are going to leave Me quite alone, even though He says, I am never alone. Of course, He is always with the Father and always has legions of angels around and so on. Nonetheless, it was a matter that they did not yet understand. They did not have the Holy Spirit, therefore, they did not have the concept of Who He truly was.
But we do. Even with the Holy Spirit, He tells us we are still going to have trouble in the world. It makes perfect sense because we are not to be of the world. And the people of the world do not like it when somebody else is not of the world. We have to be in the world temporarily (Thanks be to God, it is only temporary!) but we cannot be of the world, and that is the struggle for us as Christian people. If we want to fit in and be well-liked and so on, all too often we are going to make ourselves just like everyone else and we are going to be of the world. But Jesus says, I have conquered the world. So the only way we can truly be in the world and be fully at peace is to be in Christ. He even makes that point. I have told you this, He says, so that you may have peace in Me. It is the only way in Him. And then the very next line says, In the world you will have trouble. So it is not like as long as we are in Christ there is not going to be any more difficulty, just the opposite. He had total peace. In fact, He is peace, and yet look at what happened to Him. Why do we think that we can walk through this just like everyone else and have an easy life? It is not going to happen. But in the midst of the trouble, we can still have complete peace as long as we have ourselves fully immersed in Him. That is what is being offered.
So even though we have Baptism and we have the Holy Spirit and we are in the world, we have a choice to make yet. We have to choose whether we want to be of Christ or whether we want to be of the world. When the disciples found that there was something more, that, even though they already believed, there was more that was being offered to them, they immediately desired it. They were baptized into Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit. Our Lord is letting us know that there is more. We have Baptism and we are in the world now we need to make the choice. Do we want His peace? Do we want the joy that can come only from being in Him? Or do we want the false and passing joy that the world offers? In Him there will be peace; in the world there will be trouble, but He has conquered the world. Therefore, we must live our lives in the world but not of the world, but immersed in Jesus Christ and have ourselves completely filled with the Holy Trinity so that we do not live of the world but we live of God, that we live filled with the Holy Spirit. In Jesus Christ, not only do we have peace, but in Him we too have conquered the world.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.