6th Sunday of Easter – Year A

Resources Used:

First Reading Acts 8:5–8, 14–17

Response Psalm 66:1

Psalm Psalm 66:1–7, 16, 20

Second Reading 1 Peter 3:15–18

Gospel Acclamation John 14:23

Gospel John 14:15–21

Overall:

BARRON: Acts of Apostles is the story of how Jesus gradually became King precisely through the Acts of the Apostles… a product of the Holy Spirit… descended upon the Church for its mission… Apostles fighting with the weapon of Spirit-filled speech.

CANTALAMESSA: We ourselves must become paracletes! If it is true that the Christian must be “another Christ,” it is just as true that he must be “another Paraclete.” … In a certain sense, the Holy Spirit needs us in order to be the Paraclete. He wants to console, defend, exhort; but he does not have a mouth, hands, eyes to “give a body” to his consolation. Or better, he has our hands, our eyes, our mouth.

First Reading

Acts 8:5–8, 14–17

Overall: Last week we heard of the ordination of seven men as “assistants”: those who are to serve. Throughout the week we heard from Stephen. Today we hear the story of Phillip, another of the 7 assistants.

5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. 6 The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, 7 for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.

Two of the twelve are sent from the mother Church in Jerusalem to incorporate the Samaritan community into the greater body of the Church.

15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).

This is not to infer that their baptism was not a sacramental one, but points out the difference between baptism and confirmation. Note that the two apostles do not re-baptize but confirm. The distinction implied here between baptism and receipt of the Holy Spirit has always posed a problem for interpreters. It is no doubt a device used by Saint Luke to insist that the gift of the Spirit comes through the Church, represented by the college of the twelve in Jerusalem. Recall that Samaritans and Jews had nothing to do with each other; yet here are the apostles ministering to the Samaritans.

17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

This passage bears witness to the existence of baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit (confirmation) as two distinct sacramental rites. The most important effects Christian baptism have are the infusion of initial grace and the remission of original sin and any personal sin; it is the first sacrament one receives, which is why it is called the “door of the Church”. There is a close connection between baptism and confirmation, so much so that in the early centuries of Christianity, confirmation was administered immediately after baptism.

Response

Psalm 66:1

To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.

1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

Psalm

Psalm 66:1–7, 16, 20

To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.

1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

2sing the glory of his name;

give to him glorious praise.

3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!

Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

4All the earth worships you;

they sing praises to you,

sing praises to your name.”Selah

5Come and see what God has done:

he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

6He turned the sea into dry land;

they passed through the river on foot.

There we rejoiced in him,

7who rules by his might forever,

whose eyes keep watch on the nations—

let the rebellious not exalt themselves.Selah

16Come and hear, all you who fear God,

and I will tell what he has done for me.

20Blessed be God,

because he has not rejected my prayer

or removed his steadfast love from me.

Second Reading

1 Peter 3:15–18

Overall: Having heard in the introduction to our first reading about the start of the persecutions of the Christian Church, we now hear Saint Peter tell us the Christian approach to persecution.

15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

“We must be so well instructed in the knowledge of our faith that whenever anyone asks us about it we may be able to give them a proper answer and to do so with meekness and in the fear of God. For whoever says anything about God must do so as if God Himself were present to hear him.” [Didymus the Blind (ca. 381), Catena]

16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.

“Act in such a way that those who revile you because they cannot see your faith and your hope for a heavenly reward may see your good works and be put to shame by them, because they cannot deny that what you are doing is good. For it is quite certain, my brothers, that those who despise your good behavior will be put to shame when the last judgment comes and they see you crowned along with Christ, while they are condemned along with the devil.” [Saint Bede the Venerable (ca. A.D. 416), On 1 Peter]

17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

Peter proposes Christ’s example as a motive of patience in the persecution – but he also emphasizes the unique character of His death, in view of man’s redemption.

Gospel Acclamation

John 14:23

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Gospel: John 14:15–21

Overall: Our reading for today is a continuation of our gospel reading for last week. We are at the Last Supper, just after Judas has left and Jesus has told the remaining eleven that He must soon depart too.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

BARCLAY: To John there is only one test of love and that is obedience. It was by his obedience that Jesus showed his love of God; and it is by our obedience that we must show our love of Jesus. C. K. Barrett says: “John never allowed love to devolve into a sentiment or emotion. Its expression is always moral and is revealed in obedience.” We know all too well how there are those who protest their love in words but who, at the same time, bring pain and heartbreak to those whom they claim to love. There are children and young people who say that they love their parents, and who yet cause them grief and anxiety. There are husbands who say they love their wives and wives who say they love their husbands, and who yet, by their inconsiderateness and their irritability and their thoughtless unkindness bring pain the one to the other. To Jesus real love is not an easy thing. It is shown only in true obedience.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

BARCLAY: But Jesus does not leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone. He would send us another Helper. The Greek word is the word parakletos (Greek #3875) which is really untranslatable. The King James Version renders it Comforter, which, although hallowed by time and usage, is not a good translation. Moffatt translates it Helper. It is only when we examine this word parakletos (Greek #3875) in detail that we catch something of the riches of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It really means someone who is called in; but it is the reason why the person is called in which gives the word its distinctive associations. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of ways. A parakletos (Greek #3875) might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone’s favour; he might be an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone under a charge which would issue in serious penalty; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation; he might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always a parakletos (Greek #3875) is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need. Comforter was once a perfectly good translation. It actually goes back to Wicliffe, the first person to use it. But in his day it meant much more than it means now. The word comes from the Latin fortis which means brave; and a comforter was someone who enabled some dispirited creature to be brave. Nowadays comfort has to do almost solely with sorrow; and a comforter is someone who sympathizes with us when we are sad. Beyond a doubt the Holy Spirit does that, but to limit his work to that function is sadly to belittle him. We often talk of being able to cope with things. That is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. He takes away our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life. The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious for defeated living. So what Jesus is saying is: “I am setting you a hard task, and I am sending you out on a very difficult engagement. But I am going to send you someone, the parakletos (Greek #3875), who will guide you as to what to do and enable you to do it.”

17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

BARCLAY: Jesus went on to say that the world cannot recognize the Spirit. By the world is meant that section of men who live as if there was no God. The point of Jesus’ saying is: we can see only what we are fitted to see. An astronomer will see far more in the sky than an ordinary man. A botanist will see far more in a hedgerow than someone who knows no botany. Someone who knows about art will see far more in a picture than someone who is quite ignorant of art. Someone who understands a little about music will get far more out of a symphony than someone who understands nothing. Always what we see and experience depends on what we bring to the sight and the experience. A person who has eliminated God never listens for him; and we cannot receive the Holy Spirit unless we wait in expectation and in prayer for him to come to us. The Holy Spirit gate-crashes no man’s heart; He waits to be received. So when we think of the wonderful things which the Holy Spirit can do, surely we will set apart some time amidst the bustle and the rush of life to wait in silence for his coming.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

BARCLAY: The word he uses is orphanos (Greek #3737). It means without a father, but it was also used of disciples and students bereft of the presence and the teaching of a beloved master. Plato says that, when Socrates died, his disciples “thought that they would have to spend the rest of their lives forlorn as children bereft of a father, and they did not know what to do about it.” But Jesus told his disciples that would not be the case with them. “I am coming back,” he said.

19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

BARCLAY: He is talking of his Resurrection and his risen presence. They will see him because he will be alive; and because they will be alive. What he means is that they will be spiritually alive. At the moment they are bewildered and numbed with the sense of impending tragedy; but the day will come when their eyes will be opened, their minds will understand and their hearts will be kindled–and then they will really see him. That in fact is precisely what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. His rising changed despair to hope and it was then they realized beyond a doubt that he was the Son of God.

In this passage John is playing on certain ideas which are never far from his mind.

  1. First and foremost there is love. For John love is the basis of everything. God loves Jesus; Jesus loves God; God loves men; Jesus loves men; men love God through Jesus; men love each other; heaven and earth, man and God, man and man are all bound together by the bond of love.
  2. Once again John stresses the necessity of obedience, the only proof of love. It was to those who loved him that Jesus appeared when he rose from the dead, not to the scribes and the Pharisees and the hostile Jews.
  3. This obedient, trusting love leads to two things. First, it leads to ultimate safety. On the day of Christ’s triumph those who have been his obedient lovers will be safe in a crashing world. Second, it leads to a fuller and fuller revelation. The revelation of God is a costly thing. There is always a moral basis for it; it is to the man who keeps his commandments that Christ reveals himself No evil man can ever receive the revelation of God. He can be used by God, but he can have no fellowship with him. It is only to the man who is looking for him that God reveals himself, and it is only to the man who, in spite of failure, is reaching up that God reaches down. Fellowship with God and the revelation of God are dependent on love; and love is dependent on obedience. The more we obey God, the more we understand him; and the man who walks in his way inevitably walks with him.
%d bloggers like this: