May 17: Sixth Sunday of Easter. Readings: 1. Acts 8:5-8,14-17; Psalm: 66; 2. 1 Peter 3:15-18; Gospel: John 14:15-21.
What readily comes to mind in today’s readings is the energy and commitment demanded of the Church in its mission to spread the Good News.
So in Acts it is the missionary activity of Philip, Peter and John that typifies the outreach of the young Church. Venturing into foreign territory, these agents of the Gospel bring to their target audience a much-needed release from such things as unclean spirits. But it is the gift of something even greater that is being remembered in this instance, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is that special presence held to be vital for giving continual witness to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
Peter’s down-to-earth advice in the second reading is grounded in the example Christ has set for us all. There may be some suffering that we must endure, but if we have worked for the good of our brothers and sisters, then we can be hope-filled. Not being hemmed in by purely physical existence, we are to see ourselves endowed with that spiritual essence that leads to a right state of living well.
The speech by Jesus in today’s Gospel is an echo of the typically memorable emphases of John the Evangelist. Expressing love and observing the commandments hold the key to the message of this Gospel. And what Jesus promises is a companion to walk alongside every disciple. That person is known as the Advocate (sometimes translated the Paraclete), the Spirit of truth. This is the sort of sidekick, to use a colloquial expression, everyone needs. The Spirit therefore provides the necessary encouragement that fortifies us in every action for good.
These Eastertide readings are for remembering the example of the early Church and its reliance upon the Holy Spirit to guide it through all aspects of Christian faith.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 8:5-8,14-17.
Philip went down to [the] city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralysed and crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city.
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon 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.
Second reading: 1 Peter 3: 15-18.
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.
Gospel: John 14:15-21.
[Jesus said] “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, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”