A Double Motive

A Homily for Pentecost

            My friend Rose bakes one awesome blueberry pie.  It’s her mother-in-law’s recipe, and she follows it to the “T.”  This is, no doubt, because the pie is quite delicious, but it is also, in no small measure, because Rose has a great deal of love for her mother-in-law.  The thought of changing her mother-in-law’s recipe would break her heart.  Love is one great motive for obedience.  When we obey out of love, our obedience is unquestioning.  We see this in the Gospel of John.  Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[1]  We will obey Christ’s commandments, the recipes for eternal life, to the extent that we love Jesus.

            Another friend, Father Frans Berkhout, who serves as chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, has made the keen observation that there is one group of people at the hospital that insists on using the stairs rather than the elevators.  Who are these anti-elevator enthusiasts? The cardiologists!  That’s no surprise.  Because the cardiologists believe that exercise is essential to a healthy heart, they themselves obey their professions injunctions by using the stairs.  They are not crazy.  They don’t want to die young.  Thus they avoid the elevators like the plague.  Conviction is another great motive for obedience.  When we obey out of conviction, our obedience is unshakable.  We find this conviction-based obedience in Jesus Himself.  He tells us, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”[2]  Jesus truly believes in the necessity of His Father’s commands, the prescriptions for eternal life, and thus He obeys His Father conscientiously and speaks only what the Father tells Him.

            What about me?  If I love Christ, I will keep His commandments as faithfully as Rose follows her mother-in-law’s recipe for blueberry pie.  If I believe the truth of what Christ teaches, then I will live in accordance with my belief, just as the cardiologists at St. Luke’s Hospital live out their beliefs by using the stairs.  True obedience is rooted in both love and conviction, in both the will and the intellect, in both the heart and the head.

            Today the Church celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit bestowed on her at Pentecost.  Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, to teach us everything and remind us of all that He told us.[3]  By this same Spirit, our wills are strengthened through courage, piety, and holy fear so that we obey Jesus out of love.  By this same Spirit, our intellects are strengthened through wisdom, understanding, right judgment, and knowledge so that we obey Jesus out of conviction.

            Come, Holy Spirit!  Inflame our hearts, and we will obey Jesus out of love.  Fortify our intellects, and we will obey Jesus out of conviction.  Obedience to Jesus is more delicious than a blueberry pie and brings a far greater blessing than length of earthly days.  Amen.

[1] John 14:15.

[2] John 12:49-50.

[3] See John 14:26.