14 May 2023 – 6th Sunday of Easter, (A)
14 May 2023 – 6th Sunday of Easter, (A)
1st Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Philip’s mission in Samaria shows the joy of the original Gospel faith
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and 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 Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Responsorial: Psalm 65: 1-7, 16, 20
R./: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy
Cry out with joy to God all the earth,
O sing to the glory of his name.
O render him glorious praise.
Say to God: ‘How tremendous your deeds! (R./)
‘Before you all the earth shall bow;
shall sing to you, sing to your name!’
Come and see the works of God,
tremendous his deeds among men. (R./)
He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the river dry-shod.
Let our joy then be in him;
he rules for ever by his might. (R./)
Come and hear, all who fear God.
I will tell what he did for my soul:
Blessed be God who did not reject my prayer
nor withhold his love from me.
Let all the earth cry out to God with joy. (R./)
2nd Reading: 1 Peter 3:15-18
Peter prepares us for persecution, reminding us of the suffering of Christ
Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 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. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 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.
Gospel: John 14:15-21
The Spirit of truth is in those who love God. Our love of God should show in our actions
“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 forever. 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. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.”
Reviving our sense of the sacred
Some of the social formalities of the past are now a dim memory. Our teachers and priests used to be greeted with a salute when we passed them in the street. Other adults we called “Sir” or “Ma’am” and deferred to them. Similar courtesies were expected as good manners. Something of the kind survives in rural Ireland where, as a mark of respect for the dead people still bow their heads when a funeral passes by. Now most of these formalities have gone, like the world of my childhood which valued them so highly.
Many of the old-time courtesies were undermined by the cinema and television, which linked freedom and informality. The screen personalities, cowboys and crooks, cops and hoodlums, were not noted for courtly manners. They shot from the hip, verbally as well as with six-guns. Many an audience, like eager students, were ready shed their manners like an overcoat. Nowhere seems immune to flippant informality. Even in the church we seem to have lost some of our habits of reverence.
“Revere the Lord in your hearts,” says Saint Peter. This reverence should reach out into all our other relationships too. If, on the contrary, reverence for God is lost, nothing is truly sacred anymore. And, as a quiet warning to people engaged in religious debate, in Ireland and elsewhere, Peter urges us to make our arguments “with courtesy and respect,” qualities that are notably lacking in the discussion of political and social issues on our ubiquitous media. Reverence for God, respect and courtesy for others are parts of the same virtue. Not all courteous persons are explicit followers of Jesus Christ, but neither is a discourteous person ever a true followers of his way.
1. A sublime discourse that goes unheard.
In one of his less successful initiatives, Brother Caelestius Gavin, in the North Mon in 1962, has us memorize the entire Farewell Discourse of Christ (Jn 13-17), which quickly became a meaningless singsong — I in me and thou in thee and ye with me — in our infant heads (unless some mute inglorious mystic might have been touched by it). But even among adult believers today, how little these most sublime words in Scripture resonate! Today’s reading points us forward to Pentecost and gives us a chance to meditate on the promise of the sending of the Spirit. Pentecost Sunday itself terminates the Easter season abruptly and give us little time for further reflection. It is said that Paul VI came into the sacristy after Mass on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and asked, “What happened to the Octave of Pentecost?” (with the Sequence, Veni sancte Spiritus). “It has been abolished!” “Who abolished it?” “You did, Your Holiness” whereupon the Pope burst into tears…
2. Christ as advocate.
Some people decide that they can stand trial in a court of law without the assistance of a defence lawyer, an advocate. They can mount their own defence and confute their accusers. Unusually, it does not end well.
What of a sinful human being who would mount his or her own defence in the court of Divine Judgement?
In fact we are doing that all the time, glossing over our sins, disabling the divine accusations.
But the First Letter of John tells us that we are lying to ourselves when we do that. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).
So God has kindly provided us with an Advocate, a Paraclete (from the Greek for advocate): “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate from the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for those of all the world” (1 Jn 2:1-2).
3. Mary as advocate.
We have another advocate according to the Salve Regina (not written by St Bernard, though he may have added its last words, but apparently by this remarkable person: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_of_Reichenau). “Turn then, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us.” She is imaged as interceding with her Son on behalf of sinners.
4. The Spirit as advocate.
Today Christ tells his disciples: “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another advocate to be with you forever” (Jn 14:15). Here that author of the Fourth Gospel is elaborating on a promise already made by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mk 13:11); “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:19-20); “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Lk 12:12); cf. “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Lk 21:14-15).
Here the Spirit is not an advocate who pleads for us with God but rather a supporter who gives us answers to adversaries.
In today’s Gospel John orchestrates this role of the Spirit using his favoured language of “dwelling” (remaining, menein): “The spirit of truth that the world cannot accept for it does not see it or know it. You know it, for it dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:17).
“The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and recall to mind all that I have taught you” (14:26).
In the second passage on the Paraclete in what looks like a second version of the Farewell Discourse (chaps 15-16), the Spirit does not just defend the disciples but takes the offensive against the world: “He will convict the world of sin and of justice and of judgement” (Jn 16:8).
The notion of “truth” leads to a broadening of the Spirit’s role: “He will lead you into all truth. He will not speak from himself but will speak what he has heard, and he will announce to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me and will take from mine and announce it to you” (Jn 16:13-14).
When the visible Jesus has disappeared, the space is clear for the Spirit to come, bringing with him a new presence of Jesus and the Father (“We will come to him and make our abode with him” (14:33).
5. A Prayer.
Come Holy Spirit, stand by us as our advocate, supplying all the really effective answers to our accusers human and spiritual. Stand by your church and enable her to hold her head high in a time when she risks being deluged in disgrace and failure. Recall to her mind the luminous truths that she once knew, the truths that Christ is still ready to teach her. And lead her also to the other joyful truths she has yet to learn. You will teach us all things. The world does not see you or know you, but we know you because you dwell in us and will be with us forever. Help us to open this treasure we have from Christ, so that thanks to you we may know afresh the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (cf. Jn 17:3).
Per te sciamus da Patrem, noscamus atque Filium, Teque utriusque Spiritum credamus omni tempore.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Develop a close friendship with the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord Jesus Christ promises a special gift to those who love Him. “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 forever.” Our Lord Jesus promises to send us the Holy Spirit to be with us through all the days of our lives. All of us come to church today because we love our Lord Jesus. We love Him in spite of our sins. Thinking of our sins, sometimes we feel too less to believe that the Spirit of God abides in us. Today’s first reading clarifies this query. When the people of Samaria believed in our Lord Jesus Christ as their God, God poured out His Holy Spirit on them. They were not saints but they were sinners who believed that the blood of Jesus Christ washed away their sins.
Just like the Samaritans in today’s reading, we have received the Holy Spirit during our Confirmation. We all have the Spirit of God living within us. The more time we spend with him, we will feel more of His presence. It is not required to spend all day in the church and pray for receiving the Holy Spirit. It is chatting with the Holy Spirit all through our life. What we do all through the day determines what we do all through our lives. So we can consciously spend time with Him by happily talking with Him just like a friend. We have seen how much God likes to chat. After creating Adam and Eve, He came every day to walk and just chat with them in the cool of the day. He was not able to hide what He was doing from His friend Abraham. God asked, “How can I do anything without telling my friend Abraham?” The Old Testament has lots of inferences to God’s chats with His friends. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus too had twelve friends. He called His Apostles as friends saying, “A servant will not know what his master is doing. But I call you my friends, because you know what I am doing”. Similarly, the Holy Spirit also likes to be with us always. He wants to be our BFF (Best Friend Forever).
What can we do to enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit? The first action item is known to all of us – It is our personal morning prayer. It starts from the moment we wake up. Wake up imagining God’s face in front of you and looking lovingly at you. He is actually looking at us. Only we forget to think about it. And all the time He is thinking about us. When a baby wakes from sleep and opens its eyes, if it sees his mother’s face then, how happy the baby feels. When we wake up, our Almighty Father is also looking lovingly at us. The whole night He is watching over us, isn’t it? We should be happier than the baby, since it is our Almighty Father watching over us.
Long for praying to God. Do you like it if your child is unhappily coming to you when you are longing for Him? Long for seeing our Father’s face. Long for hearing our God’s voice.
In the Old Testament, God commanded celebrations for every good event. And all the celebrations were spanning over days – like 3 or 5 or 7 like that. So our God is a God of celebrations. He is not a boring God. So please do not think that God is boring. Why would He command big celebrations if He did not enjoy celebrations? Our Lord Jesus Christ attended the Wedding at Cana. So God listens if you are happy too.
If you sing about God, God gets happy and sings about you. There is a Bible verse for it – Zephaniah 3:17, “He will rejoice over you with singing”. Sing songs and praise Him. When I am not able to concentrate I keep repeatedly listening to the same song like “Lord I need you … ” 3 times or so… At the end of it, I will be able to feel God’s presence. Moreover, the whole day I will be able to feel the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit. I feel that if we give the first hours of our morning time to God, we will get the guidance from the Holy Spirit all through the day…
The second action item is talking with the Holy Spirit just like a friend. We can share all our innermost fears, feelings, ask Him to let us know what to reply, how to handle critical situations and so on. The more we talk with Him, the more we will be able to enjoy life.
The Holy Spirit will take our simple life and make it fruitful. Our Lord Jesus said “.. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” So the more we ask, the more of Holy Spirit will be given. The more Holy Spirit, the more fruitful our lives will be. Everyday pray for all your children to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He is the most important treasure your children are in need of.
As we celebrate Mother’s day in many parts of the world today, let us also meditate on the purity and virginity of our Mamma Mary. Mamma Mary’s purity is explained by the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ from the womb of our Mamma Mary. Who else can hold the God of all Holiness. Similarly, the everlasting virginity of our Mamma Mary is also proven by our Lord Jesus Christ from the cross. Our Lord Jesus looking at John, told Mamma Mary, “Mamma, this is Your Son. John, this is your Mamma”. If our Lord Jesus had not been the only son of our Mamma Mary, why would He ask someone else to take care of His Mamma. He would have asked His younger siblings to take care, because that would have been their primary duty. But now our Lord Jesus knows that there is no one to take care of His Mamma. He couldn’t leave her all alone. So He is giving the job of taking care of His Mamma to John. Our Lord Jesus said, “Mamma, this is your son” – He made Mamma Mary adopt John as Her son and practically all of us at that point of time. Let us enlighten our other brethren also on the virginity of our Mamma Mary.
Till that point of time, our Lord Jesus was the only person to call Mamma Mary “Mamma”.
It was certainly worthwhile to click that last YouTube link, Joe – to hear Gregorian chant as delivered by that group. A new dimension in sensitivity, gentleness sympathy and empathy. Come Holy Spirit to us all!