Sixth Sunday of Easter – A

Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66:1-7, 16, 20; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21

ALIVE IN THE SPIRIT

  • Speaking to a large audience, Bishop Fulton Sheen, held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit. —Today in the Word, September, 1991, p. 30.
  • A young artist was trying to copy Raphael’s “Madonna and Child,” one of the most beautiful pictures in all the world. He went to Florence and gazed on it, then got his easel. Sitting down in front of it he began to copy it. As he looked at it his picture became a thing of beauty, too. But suppose that, instead of only copying, the spirit of Raphael could have come upon that young man: what a difference it would have made! When we come to the Lord Jesus He gives us His Holy Spirit to help us live as He would have us live, and the more the Holy Spirit controls our lives, the more like Him we grow. Do come to Him now, if you have never come, and ask Him to give you His Holy Spirit.—Intermediate Young People.
  • There are two ways of traveling on the Continent. In the first, you do every­thing for yourself. You obtain your ticket, look after your luggage, get your seat in the carriage, ask at least three porters whether you are right; and if you have an imperfect knowledge of the language, you have perpetually an uneasy sense that perhaps you are wrong. … There is another method of foreign travel. You employ a Tourist Agency, which obtains your tickets, sees to your comfort, gives you precise directions, provides you, where necessary, with a conductor, and at every terminus waits to greet you. . And in this we have an apt illustration of the easier way of traveling to Heaven… . Be at rest in the indwelling and inworking of the Holy Spirit. Only see that He is not grieved, and He will see to all else.—F. B. Meyer, in the King’s Business.
  • When Bishop Simpson preached years ago in Memorial Hall, London, he preached quietly and with very little gesticulation, but with such power that the whole assembly, as if moved by an irresistible impulse, arose at the climax of his message, then after a second or two sank into the seats. A professor of elocution was there. A friend who knew that he had come to criticize, asked him, after the service, how he liked the bishop’s elocution. “Elocution!” he said. “That man doesn’t need elocution. He’s got the Holy Ghost.” That was the secret back of the attracting power of Jesus Christ, and it tells the story of every great preacher whom God has used in the drawing of souls to himself.—The King’s Business.
  • Many years agone, the throne of Russia was once occupied by two boy princes. They sat side by side and gave their decisions on the gravest questions; their judgments were so wise and just, that men marveled that princes so young and inexperienced could know so much of statecraft, or speak with such discretion on questions so difficult. But the secret was that close behind the throne where they sat, hidden by a thin veil, was the Princess Sophia. She heard the cases brought to them, and gave the decisions which they pronounced. Those boys referred everything to her, and waited until she whispered to them the wise answer they delivered. So “the word of Christ should dwell” in our heart. (Col. 3:16). It is unseen but only a thin veil conceals it. We are to refer every matter to the Holy Spirit and wait for His decision. Then what He bids us do we are to do. Thus Christ “brings into captivity every thought,” every feeling and affection (II Cor. 10:5; Gal. 5:24). He will settle every point of duty. He will mold our business methods. He will sit as the invisible umpire in all questions of pleasure, of profit, of ambition or leadership. “The Word is nigh thee” (Rom. 10:8).—The Illustrator.
  • There is a touching story told of a humble, consecrated pastor, whose young son had become very ill. After the boy had undergone an exhaustive series of tests, the father was told the shocking news that his son had a terminal illness. The youngster had accepted Christ as his Savior, so the minister knew that death would usher him into glory; but he wondered how to inform one in the bloom of youth that soon he would die.

    After earnestly seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit, he went with a heavy heart through the hospital ward to the boy’s bedside. First he read a passage of Scripture and had a time of prayer with his dear child. Then he gently told him that the doctors could promise him only a few more days to live.

    “Are you afraid to meet Jesus, my boy?” asked his devout father.

    Blinking away a few tears, the little fellow said bravely, “No, not if He’s like you, Dad!”

We are at the end period of Easter Season and today is the 6th Sunday. The Gospel Reading of today from St. John continues the Farewell Discourse of Jesus. Ideally situated in the Liturgical Year to anticipate the coming feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, the reading tells both of Jesus’ imminent departure and his promise of the Holy Spirit.

PEOPLE OF SAMARIA RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT:

Today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a historical recount of the event surrounding the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans. Last week we saw that the apostles had ordained seven men to administer the soup kitchen in Jerusalem. The men, later known as deacons, quickly expanded their role to missionary work. One of the deacons, Philip, travels to Samaria and begins making converts baptizing several people. After hearing this glorious news, Peter and John, two apostles, go to the city for the express purpose of confirming those who were baptized by laying hands on them and conferring the Holy Spirit. In this act of the-laying-on-of-hands for the purpose of conferring the Holy Spirit, we see the primitive origin of the sacrament of confirmation as we administer and celebrate it today.

CHRISTIANS ARE PEOPLE OF HOPE:

Today’s Second Reading from the 1st Letter of Peter, delineates the need to participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering as well as the vivifying role of the Holy Spirit, “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.” Christ in his passion is the Savior and model for Christians; it is he who brings us to communion with God and who shows us the level of love to which Christians are called by the will of God. Peter says that Christ suffered for our sins once for all, the righteous person for the unrighteous, in order to bring all people to God. He urges them to be ready to engage others in order to explain Christian expectations. He implies that suffering is a likely consequence of preaching. It is interesting that St. Peter characterizes Christianity by its hope, its expectations of what is to happen because of Christ.

THE COMMON THEME of John’s Gospel which we are reading these weeks is the fact that Jesus, following his resurrection, has left us and returned to his Father. At the same time, he is still with us but in a different way from before his death on the cross. And today’s readings tell us that it is through the Spirit of the Father and the Son that that presence is experienced by us.

We see this clearly expressed in today’s gospel passage. Jesus is telling his disciples at the Last Supper that, through the Spirit, he will continue to be with them – and us – forever. He calls the Spirit an ‘Advocate’. In other biblical translations he is called a ‘Counsellor’ (NRSV,NIV), ‘Comforter’ (King James), Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby (Amplified Bible), Advocate (NAB, NRSV). The Greek word is parakletos, from which comes the older word ‘Paraclete’. Basically a ‘paraclete’ is someone like a defence lawyer, someone who stands by you in court, gives you support, advice and comfort in difficult situations when you need help. That is precisely the role of the Spirit in our Christian life. He teaches, he guides, he supports, he consoles, he comforts as we try to be faithful in our following of Christ’s Way.

Pointing the Way

He is the Spirit of Truth, the same Truth that Jesus himself represents. “I am the Way: I am Truth and Life.” That Truth is not just a list of dogmas or doctrines. It represents a deep understanding of what life is really about, of how it is to be lived in partnership with one’s brothers and sisters in our common search to make this world truly God’s Kingdom, to make this world the kind of place that God wants it to be. It combines the ideas of wholeness and integrity, a total harmony between the inner and outer self and between the self and God. All this we find in the highest degree in Jesus.

Many in the world do not recognise the Spirit. The ‘world’ here represents all those who live only for themselves, who see everyone else and everything else as stepping stones to their own advancement, their own pleasure and enjoyment. Such people are totally deaf to the Spirit.

We, however, who have accepted Christ and his Gospel do know the Spirit. “He is with you, he is in you.” So, although Jesus tells his disciples that he is about to leave them and they are clearly alarmed and despondent at the idea, he reassures them that he will come back, he will continue to be with them though in a different way.

An end and a beginning

To the ‘world’ Jesus’ death on the Cross was the end of everything. He had been a flash in the pan. A sensation of a kind in that corner of the world. Jesus Christ the Superstar. But now, as Jesus speaks with his disciples at the Last Supper, it was all about to end in total failure and degradation. But those who can see discern in the cross not dismal failure but the triumph of love over hate, they can see that the object of that love is themselves, they know that Jesus has passed into life and that all those who identify themselves totally with him and his vision of universal Love still enjoy his presence.

“On that day”, the day when Jesus was lifted up in glory on the cross, “you will understand that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you!” And how is that to be brought about? “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” And what are those commandments? Quite simply it is to put Love at the heart of all living. “The greatest love a person can show is to give their life for their friends.” This is what Jesus did for us and what we are called on to do for others. “By this will all know that you are my followers, that you have love for each other.” And what is that Love? As we have mentioned before, this Love is an unconditional desire for the well-being of every single person. Another word for ‘love’ in the Gospel is ‘service’. Not the service of the slave for a master, not the service of the specialist – be he/she doctor, lawyer, priest – for the (inferior) lay person but the service of one brother/sister to another brother/sister without any distinction of rank, race, nationality, religion or whatever.

The Way to loving God

It is all summed up in this final sentence: “Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him/her.” We love God not just by expressing our love directly for him but by the way in which we extend Love to all those around us without any exceptions whatever. And all those who love Jesus will receive the love of the Father. But how to love Jesus? We love Jesus when we love him in our brothers and sisters. “Whatever you do to these the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.” When we live our lives in this way we will in turn experience God’s love and grow in our familiarity with him.

Disciples and apostles

We see that love of God and Jesus coming to the people of Samaria in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. That love comes to them through the deacon Philip and his companions as they proclaim the message of the Gospel. Great signs of healing follow. The examples of evil spirits being driven out, cripples and paralytics being cured point to the much deeper liberation that comes through our surrender to the Gospel: a real healing and being made whole and a liberation from everything that inhibits our being fully functioning people.

This experience leads to their total acceptance of the Gospel and their being filled with the Spirit of the Father and of Jesus. What they received from Philip, they in their turn will now communicate to others who have yet to hear the message. The lesson for our own Christian lives is so clear. To be a disciple of Christ is to be not only a disciple, a follower but also an apostle, sharing our experience of knowing Christ with others.

The context of today’s Gospel is the human anxiety of the disciples about the absence of Jesus and ultimately about the absence of God caused by his foretelling of his departure from the world. Jesus had no intention of leaving his disciples behind him in a situation where they are left to hope without help. He does not deny the anxiety and distress, but offers a promise of presence and a sense of meaning embedded in sharing God’s life. The power of the Spirit is the rock of Christian hope. Without the Spirit, the followers of Jesus would be thrown back on their own resources which are clearly inadequate. With the Spirit however, the disciples can face the future with a power which is much larger than themselves. In this Gospel we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will come as our advocate, the Spirit of Truth. By giving us the Spirit as an advocate what does Jesus imply? He wishes us to know that the Spirit, the best gift that God can give us, is the gift of his own presence in our lives. The Spirit will stand besides us, will comfort us when we ask, help us in difficult times, and speak on our behalf when we are in need. Although people with no religious faith comfort one another, our fellowship with the Spirit is deeper and more awesome. His power becomes real only if we let Him work in and through us.



Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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