6th Sunday of Easter
Today, as we celebrate the Sixth Sunday of Easter, we are turning a corner. Instead of looking back to the Resurrection, the readings are looking ahead to the departure of Jesus that we will celebrate this coming week on Ascension Thursday; and the coming of the Holy Spirit in just two weeks on Pentecost Sunday.
The first reading relates the success of Philip in the conversion of many in the land of Samaria. Remember that Jesus had claimed that his disciples would be able to perform the same signs and miracles that he had done if they would preach in his Name. The crowds in Samaria listened and believed Philip because they “heard and saw the signs that he was doing.”
Philip was one of the new deacons who were appointed to assist the Apostles in their work. Philip’s success seemed to confirm the words of Jesus that his word would spread from Judea to Samaria and then to the ends of the world. On hearing the good news the apostles in Jerusalem send Peter and John to investigate, pray, and confirm the new converts in their faith. In the account we witness one of the early instances of the sacrament of Confirmation. Peter and John “laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”
At this time of the year successors of the first Apostles continue to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to young men and women all over the world. Most of the newly confirmed will be in their early teens, that often difficult period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It may be difficult for them to think that anything real has happened at Confirmation. After all, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and not a creature of flesh and blood. The Spirit is not accessible by our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell.
How can they and we discover the Spirit in our lives? Maybe the answer can be found in today’s gospel reading. At the Last Supper Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In the next sentence he says that He will ask the Father to give them an Advocate, the Spirit of truth. In other words, the coming of the Spirit is linked with keeping the commandments.
Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments that were given to the Hebrew people at the time of Moses. They included commands like honor thy father and mother; do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; and do not bear false witness. Jesus was certainly aware of these commandments but he insisted that one commandment was above them all. His command was simply to love one another. In another part of John’s gospel Jesus also commanded us to love one another in the same way that He loved us. In other words, He was urging us to seek a selfless and self-giving love.
I don’t think teenagers or anyone else today would object to this command. We all want to love and to be loved. We all need love, and someone to love. However, we all know that it is easy to turn our backs on love. It has always been easy to just think of ourselves, talk about ourselves, and do for ourselves.
Love or charity puts the other commandments in a new light. It has often been said that charity begins at home but it might be better to say that it should begin at home. How often do we fail to honor our father and mother? How often do we show anger and bitterness toward our brothers and sisters? How often do we take from them what is theirs? How often do we deceive the ones we should love the most?
We like to think that it is natural for us to love but we all need help. Where can we find it?
In today’s gospel Jesus promised that he would not leave us alone.
And I will ask the Father,and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,because it neither sees nor knows him.
It is true that the Spirit will often come to us in ways we do not see or understand. It will most often come to us from those we love the most and who often love us the most. Even children eventually come to realize that the commands or rules imposed on them by parents come from love.
In today’s second reading St. Peter advises us to be prepared to defend our faith.
Always be ready to give an explanationTo anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…
Our reason for hope is that God is Love and that He has commanded us to love one another as He loved us. If some say there is no God, we say that God is love. If some say, we cannot believe in a God who allows such pain and suffering in the world, we say that during his time on earth Jesus worked to heal pain and suffering wherever he found it, and commanded us to follow his example out of love. At his Ascension He told us that the work of love was up to us but that His Spirit would always be there to assist us on the journey of love.
Reading 1.Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
Reading II. 1 Peter 3: 15-18
Gospel. John 14: 15-21 (keep my commandments).