OBTAINING THE KEYS TO THE UPPER ROOM: HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR A) REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD

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          Entrances are normally secured with locks. And to enter into a place, two things are involved: you either have it unlocked from outside or someone unlocks it from the inside. Anything outside of these amounts to burglary. There is a proverb in Nigeria which says that when you unlock the door for someone, you at the same time unlock the mouth. It was the great American Poet and Songwriter Jim Morrison, who said that there are things known and unknown and in between are doors.

          The Easter season will come to an end with the Pentecost which celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles who were gathered at the Upper Room (Acts 2:1-14 ). Hence at this point, we are looking forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Today we are presented with the necessary steps to be taken before the actual encounter with the Holy Spirit. What this means is that one has to unlock and enter the Upper Room before receiving the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. If the Upper Room has to be unlocked, what then are the essential keys that should be used to do the unlocking?

          The answer to the above can be found in the opening words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of today: “if you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to be with you always”. If we take an attentive look at these opening statement, we will discover that the coming of the Holy Spirit should be preceded by LOVE and keeping of God’s COMMANDMENTS. We can thus say that LOVE and OBEDIENCE are the necessary preconditions, or if you like, the keys with which we can unlock the door to the Upper Room where the encounter is slated to take place. We also need to understand that this Upper Room is located somewhere inside of us; in our souls.

          Love is easily one the most commonly used words in the world. People profess it, parents feel it for their children and expect it in return, musician sing about it, poets use it to formulate their rhymes and most religions preach it. Beyond all these, Love is not just what we say; it is beyond words. It is not what we feel; it is beyond feelings. It is not what we sing; it is more melodious than any song. It is rather what we do. It is actually a doing word, an active principle. For love to be what it really is, it must have foundation in God because God is love.( 1 John 4:8 ).

          Furthermore, love does not ask questions, it is not based on conditions rather it is selfless, sacrificial and endless. When someone says: “I love you” and turns around later to say” “I no longer love you!” It will be right to doubt if it was love in the first instance. Of course many mistake love for infatuation, likeness, appreciation, mere excitement and other fleeting emotions. To love truly and comprehensively is to have strong and steady connection with God as the defining support, as without God love does not exist.

          Life is generally governed by rules and regulations which apply to plants, animals and human beings at various degrees. Effective survival depends largely on the responses to those rules and regulations. Apart from the natural and human laws, our religious creed tells us that there are divine laws which are God’s directives and regulations for wholesome living. Today our Lord Jesus Christ made emphasis on keeping God’s commandment as an indication or expression of our love for God: “if you love me you will keep my commandments”. This statement is indeed very deep upon deeper reflection. Here we understand that we cannot truly keep God’s commandment except we are moved or prodded by our love for him.

          The statement as we can see above began with the conditional verb “IF”. Here we understand that our Lord Jesus Christ is not in any way forcing us to love him and keep his commandment. It is basically our decision and choice to love him or not to love him, to keep his commandment and not to keep his commandment. In whichever way, our choices have their respective gains and losses. The reception of the Holy Spirit which we anticipate and would celebrate soon has a lot to do with loving God and keeping His commandment. It is by keeping God’s commandment out of love that we will have access to another advocate; the Holy Spirit. Hence we speak of the keys of love and obedience as very essential and indispensable if we are to receive the Holy Spirit.

          As we anticipate the coming of the Holy Spirit, there is every need for us to prepare to encounter Him. If we cast our minds back on the scene of the out pouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostle on the day of Pentecost, we will discover that they were gathered together in the Upper Room. This means that each of them willingly entered the place through the entrance. As it applies to us our Lord had given us insights as to how we can gain access to the Upper Room. Like we mentioned earlier we have two powerful keys to achieve this; namely LOVE AND OBEDIENCE. We are thus challenged at this point to love more than we have been doing, to raise our obedience quotient more than we have done in the past. By doing all these, we shall be blessed with a very awesome entrance into the Upper Room where we shall make an enduring encounter with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Counsellor, the Helper, and the Advocate.

Do have a transforming and blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie

(fatherbonny@hotmail.com)

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