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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's sermon

30th May 2004

Fr David Shepherd

Whitsun 2004

'Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied".'

How often do we hear similar requests? Show us God. How can we believe in him? Therein is the problem, we cannot show anyone God as he is invisible, hidden. Belief is difficult; it requires an act of faith. If Philip's request connects with the sceptic it also suggests another current concern, the desire for satisfaction, fulfilment almost as a right. So Philip's request is doubly significant.

Jesus answers Philip, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and still you do not know me?" To know Jesus is to know his father with the intimacy of deep friendship. The father lives in Jesus, works through him, is glorified in him. This divine indwelling of the father in the son suggests that God is knowable and that in him we will find satisfaction for our deepest desires.

But still there is a difficulty. Philip knew Jesus well. He was standing in front of him, physically present. Knowing Jesus he could know the father. We might feel we know a lot about Jesus but he is no longer present, so how can we know the Father in him?

In his answer to Philip Jesus gives us the answer. The first thing is that we should ask in our prayers. The intimate knowledge of God is his gift to us. It has to be received by us. It won't be forced on us. Our prayer is answered says Jesus, by the sending of the Holy Spirit who will be with us forever. The Christian experience of the indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to believe in God, to see him and to be satisfied.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost or Whitsun. As we reflect on our readings we can discover what the gift means for us.

  1. Advocate. An advocate acts on our behalf, stands up for us, pleads for us in a law court. The Holy Spirit, the advocate acts on our behalf, a go between us and God, Father and Son.
  2. Truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. In him all questions find their answers and solutions. All will be revealed in a freeing liberating way. He will teach us all we need to know.
  3. Indwelling. The Holy Spirit lives in us, enabling us to know God intimately as a friend. Led by the Spirit says St. Paul we become the children of God by adoption. We can call him abba, dad with the intimacy of a close father/son relationship.
  4. Peace. Much of the time human beings are deeply troubled. The disciples certainly were on the first Pentecost, shut away for fear. Through him we receive Christ's peace, shalom, a deep inner calm that we can know even in the midst of great turmoil and conflict, such as the apostles faced in the early church.
  5. Life. 'Send forth your spirit, O Lord and renew the face of the earth', says the Psalmist. Whenever we see creativity, life lived to the very full there we see God's Holy Spirit at work. By God's Spirit we share in God's life, becoming a new creation, enabled to live the life God intends for us.

That is by know means an exhaustive list of the attributes of the Holy Spirit whose feast we celebrate today. But it begins to suggest how with Philip we can know Jesus and in him see the Father and be satisfied.

To end a prayer of Eric Milner-White addressed to the Spirit of Life, reminding us that our faith is to be prayed if we are to receive the full knowledge of God.

O Holy Ghost
giver of light and life;
Impart to us thoughts higher than our own thoughts,
and prayers better than our own prayers,
and powers beyond our own powers;
that we may spend and be spent
in the ways of love and goodness,
after the perfect image
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


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Last updated 24/05/04 12:00 Author: David Shepherd