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Scripture Reflections - May 21
Sixth Sunday of Easter


READINGS

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

For the last five Sundays, we have been inspired by Scripture stories from the Gospels about the many appearances of the risen Lord to the Apostles and many, many others. 

Gradually we have listened to passages from the Acts of the Apostles in which the early Church came to understand how  closely identified Jesus is with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  

He is  both the human teacher and friend they had come to love - and also divine and really God.    

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, tells a story that shows how the apostles, following Pentecost, were able to perform miracles and healings very similar to the ones Jesus Himself worked while yet with them. 

These signs gave such strong credibility to their preaching  that crowds of people immediately believed in Jesus, and were baptized.  The story itself tells us that Philip the Deacon, filled with the Spirit, goes to Samaria and converts these traditional enemies into enthusiastic believers.  When the apostles heard this astounding news, they immediately sent Peter and John to lay hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit.

It was in Samaria that a certain magician names Simon, reverenced there as a god, was  converted to Jesus.  

Unfortunately, he made a serious mistake by offering to “buy” Peter’s power. Even today, we refer to that as the sin of simony.  Peter excommunicated him on the spot, but invited him to repent of this grave sin.  We never do find out what happened to him.

The second reading today, from a letter attributed to St. Peter, gives the early Christians a rule of conduct as they set out on their mission of truth and service. “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

They should have no fear of their enemies, but be prepared to pay the price of discipleship.  If they unite their sufferings to those that Jesus endured, then their personal reward in heaven is assured.

The Gospel is part of Jesus’ Farewell Address to his apostles at the Last Supper.  There, he prepares them for his death, resurrection, and ascension,  He tells them they should be happy that He is leaving them, for now God the Father will send them an Advocate.   As Jesus Himself was the first “Paraclete,” so God the Father will now send the Spirit of Truth who will complete their education, reminding them of all that He said while on earth, and giving  them full understanding and skill to preach the Word with great power and wisdom. 

This Holy Spirit will make it possible for Jesus along with God the Father to come into their hearts and dwell there. In this way, Jesus will be present to them always. 

Further, this Holy Spirit will fill them with courage to witness to the Truth.   He will console them with great joy, and help them to live always in hope of their own resurrection.

This Thursday is Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of Obligation and the beginning of our nine-day preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  

As a people of hope, we need to ready ourselves for the Holy Spirit entering more fully into us.  Why?  Because not only those of us today who are in Holy Orders, but all the baptized are the modern day apostles to whom God has entrusted the spreading the Good News that redemption and forgiveness of sin comes  only through Jesus Christ.

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