READINGS AND REFLECTION
Sixth Sunday of Easter – 17 May 2020
Acts 8:5-8,14-17 – They laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit
PHILIP went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:15-18 – In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life
REVERENCE the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring. And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.
Why, Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.
John 14:15-21 – I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate
JESUS said to his disciples:
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you.
In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.
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.’
WHAT a most useful and meaningful challenge St. Peter puts before us today in the second reading!
“Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.”
Without the slightest doubt, Peter tells us that the best way to reverence/honour the Risen Lord is to give a clear and convincing account of what and why we believe and hope, and to give this witnessing account in true love. Often what we say may indeed be the truth. But the way we pass it on to others “with courtesy and respect and a clear conscience”, is what actually makes us Christian, and makes our witnessing truly Christian.
Many “apologists” (those who champion their religious beliefs) do so oppressively, extremely, fanatically, violently, treating the listeners/opposers as enemies, as foes who need to be killed by their Crusading. That kind of “witnessing” where Christ’s love and life is absent in the behaviour becomes a lie and a sham. It’s not what we think we believe that matters, but the truth of what we live and practise, the respect and love of Christ, even for His enemies. We should stop all those kinds of antagonistic and antagonizing nonsense!
Proof of Faith: Behaviour vs Preaching
More, St. Peter assures us that if we are actually Christian by our behaviour not just preaching about it, we will always be vindicated no matter what and how non-believers and the world slander and persecute us. If we are courteous, respectful, we always will win and never lose our good conscience or the deep sense of security founded on the truth we believe and live by. A lot of the time so-called apologists are aggressive and disrespectful because they are insecure about their belief actually.
“And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.” The world and our enemies will slander and persecute us. It is part of our cross to suffer for what is right. It’s worth the suffering, for the Lord Himself suffered, died, but was raised triumphantly to life for doing what was right. “Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the SPIRIT he was raised to life.” The Lord’s life of utter love for sinners is our model and assurance of invincibility.
The God who gives us the Way, the Truth, and the Life, to whom we bear witness, is of course the HOLY SPIRIT given us by Jesus risen from the dead. We shall be celebrating Ascension next week, and Pentecost the following. In the gospel readings we naturally look at those words and events in the Lord’s life as He was about to depart from this world.
The Son of Man when he was briefly on earth was the Image, Teacher, Mediator, and Advocate of God the Father, and helped us to know and keep the Father’s commandment and so to belong to the Father. Jesus will not desert us or leave us orphans but will send us the Holy Spirit to be with us for ever. The fruit of our redemption won by Christ, His intimate and powerful presence to save, will from now be taken over by ANOTHER ADVOCATE Christ will send, the HOLY SPIRIT.
Driven by the Holy Spirit, the power of Christ is dynamically displayed by the continuing work of the Christ through the early Church in the first reading. The Church founded on the apostles, sent the apostles Peter and John to Samaria to give the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized there, to complete the neophytes’ initiation into the life of God so that they too would be empowered to join in the work of spreading the Good News. Such a Church united in the power of the Holy Spirit, showed forth the presence of Christ in signs and wonders which accompanied Philip and all who had received the Holy Spirit.
Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Jesus’ love!