6th. Sunday of Easter (A)
(Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17; 1st Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, notice that Philip worked miracles – which means that the Lord backed up Philip’s proclamation by signs to attract men’s attention – but the Apostles, Peter and John, having come down from Jerusalem:
Prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them, they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Philip was one of the seven men of repute in last week’s readings specially designated by popular choice and the Apostles’ blessing to serve at table and take special care of the widows … he was not one of the Apostles breathed upon by the Risen Lord that they might personally receive and be able to personally bestow God’s Gift of the Spirit.
How clearly that shows what is truly, supremely, Christian! Not miracles, blessings though they be, to ‘get things going’, to confirm and consolidate in times of need, but the GIFT OF THE SPIRIT OF JESUS!!
That is why – in Mother Church’s wisdom – our second reading today began:
Beloved, sanctify Christ in your hearts!
That is, use the Spirit with which you have been gifted to glorify Christ as the Holy One, your confidence and joy, your Redeemer and Saviour; but in all and above all, as your LORD and GOD! Moreover, sanctify Him in your heart, that is, in all sincerity and with full hope, confidence, and longing.
Oh, Lord Jesus, come, rule me: in the longings of my heart and all the searchings and aspirations of my mind, come Lord Jesus, RULE IN ME!!
For the Spirit gifted us is ours at the Personal request of Jesus as we heard in the Gospel reading:
If you love Me, if you keep My commandments, I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you always.
He is indeed a most special Gift and a most sublime pledge of love -- given us by the Father at Jesus’ request! The world, however,
Cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.
Oh, you so privileged Catholic and Christian People of God!
You know Him because He remains with you and will be in you!
You know Him because He, the Holy Spirit, remains -- always and forever – among you and for you In Mother Church, and will be in you personally, who continue faithful-and-true to Him Who first called you -- the Father Who now gives His Gift of the Spirit -- and to Him Who died and rose from the dead for you, and at Whose request the Father now gives the Spirit of His Son!
Peter, in our second reading, was so confidently urging us to sanctify Christ in our hearts that he was in no way embarrassed to allow himself to be carried further and declare that our sufferings as Christians for what is good, are themselves a truly, indeed supremely, authentic ‘sanctifying’ of Christ, since:
Christ also suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God … brought to life by the Spirit.
Notice here the wondrous harmony between Saint Peter in our second reading today and some words of Saint Paul taken from His doctrinal letter to the Romans and to the nations, where he writes:
As to His death, He (Christ) died to sin once and for all; as to His life, He lives for God. (Romans 6:10)
Let me put the words of Peter and Paul side by side and bit by bit for you:
Christ suffered for sins once/ As to His death, He died to sin once.
The Righteous for the unrighteous/He (the Righteous One) died to sin once, and for all (the unrighteous).
That He might lead you to God/He (now) lives; consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
There is yet one more essential doctrinal concordance between Peter and Paul in their teaching about Christ and the salvation He offers us – something absolute necessary for a right understanding of the world’s and our society’s current turmoil and trials -- and it concerns sin, its deadliness and universality:
HE SUFFERED FOR SINS ONCE; HE DIED TO SIN ONCE, AND FOR ALL; THAT HE MIGHT LEAD YOU AS DEAD TO SIN AND LIVING FOR GOD.
What is SIN? What is the sin for which Jesus’ first public words demanded that we repent??
It is the sin condemned by the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament given by God to His Chosen People through Moses; those Ten Commandments which were affirmed and exemplified by Jesus in His life and teaching, death and resurrection. That teaching of Jesus is confirmed and appropriated for us today by His Most Holy Spirit ever at work inspiring, guiding, and protecting Mother Church in her Gospel mission; and that sin, for which and from which He came to offer us salvation, cannot be overcome in any way at all by the political correctness and social maneuverings of our modern Western world, which is, in fact, now being re-paganized to an unprecedented degree and depth in these our times!
However, without Christianity, life is not truly acceptable for those who have once known the Faith, and so they must continually dress up in different ways selections and adaptations of that way of life they formerly recognized, lived by, and perhaps appreciated and provisionally loved. The ‘world’ cannot receive the Spirit of Jesus because it does not recognize the reality of that sin which rules -- even by acclaim! -- in human lives and society today:
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children… (Matthew 7:11)
The ‘world’ only wants to establish its own laws of criminality in order to keep acceptable order in society, to win human approbation, and to provide comforting self-justification; it does not want to recognize and reject the real sin present, for some so secretly and for others so satisfyingly, in human, and above all their own -- hearts!!
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 realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. (John 14:19–2)
People of God, looking at the world around us, at the ever more modern versions of what used to be Christian society, we can surely say that that day foretold by our Blessed Lord has in some measure arrived for us His present-day disciples, and that we would do well, therefore, to give more special heed than we have perhaps done before to His recommendations:
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.
Let us, as it were, calmly set sail under such an aegis, allowing ourselves to be guided by the breathing of His Spirit filling the sails of all our hopes and aspirations and, looking to neither right nor left, trust totally in Him our Brother Who died and rose again for us, and in Him Who originally called us and still invites us to find eternal joy and peace in our true home with Him Who is our only, and eternally loving, Father.