Sunday in the Sixth Week of Easter – Cycle A

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Readings and Antiphons on p. 536 of the Daily Missal and on p. 263 of the Sunday Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.

Proclaim a joyful sound and let it be heard; proclaim to the ends of the earth: the Lord has freed his people, alleluia.

First Reading: Acts 8, 5-8, 14-17

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

In those days:
Philip went down to a city of Samaria,
and proclaimed to them the Christ. 
And the multitudes with one accord
gave heed to what was said by Philip,
when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. 
For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed,
crying with a loud voice;
and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 
So there was much joy in that city. 

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard
that Samaria had received the word of God,
they sent to them Peter and John, 
who came down and prayed for them
that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 
for the Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them,
but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 
Then they laid their hands on them
and they received the Holy Spirit. 

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a, 16 and 20. (R. 1 )

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth.

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 awesome your deeds!

Before you all the earth shall bow down,
shall sing to you, sing to your name!”
Come and see the works of God:
awesome his deeds among the children of men.

He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
Let our joy, then, be in him;
he rules forever by his might.

Come and hear, all who fear God;
I will tell what he did for my soul.
Blest be God, who did not reject my prayer,
nor withhold from me his merciful love.

R/. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3: 15-18

A reading from the First Letter of Saint Peter.

Brothers and sisters: 

In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to make a defence
to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you,
yet do it with gentleness and reverence; 
and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused,
those who revile your good behavior in Christ
may be put to shame. 
For it is better to suffer for doing right,
if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong. 
For Christ also died for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that he might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
If a man loves me, he will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.
Alleluia.

Gospel: John 14: 15-21

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.

At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 
even the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him;
you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. 
Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more,
but you will see me;
because I live, you will live also. 
In that day you will know that I am in my Father,
and you in me, and I in you. 
He who has my commandments and keeps them,
he it is who loves me;
and he who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 

The Gospel of the Lord.

Homile

A man said to a counsellor: 

  • “My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her anymore and she doesn’t love me anymore. What can I do?” 
  • The counsellor asked, “The feeling isn’t there anymore?” 
  • “That’s right.” He affirmed.
  • “And we have three children we are really concerned about. What do you suggest?” 
  • “Love her,” the counsellor replied.
  • “I told you the feeling just isn’t there anymore.” 
  • “Love her.” 
  • “You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.” 
  • “Then love her. If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.” 
  • “But how do you love when you don’t love?” 
  • “My friend, love is a verb, action. Love, the feeling – is the fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?” 
  • To quote Dostoevsky, love is “as hard as hell.” 
  • If we love, we obey the commands and wishes of our beloved. 
  • This applies to our relations with other people and with us and God. 

What I find astounding in the Acts reading today is that the Samaritans accept Phillip’s preaching and then they receive the visit by Peter and John, who had arrived to survey what was happening in Samaria. 

  • The Samaritans and Jews were bitter enemies, yet the Samaritans accepted these preachers from Jerusalem and the Christ they proclaimed.

Imagine how the early Jewish Christian communities would have to adjust to Samaritan Christians in their midst! 

  • Wasn’t John (along with James) the one who wanted Jesus to call down fire on the Samaritan village that had rejected him (Luke 9-54)? 
  • The good news in the story is that former enemies are united by their faith in Christ. 
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation were fruits of the Spirit’s presence among those early Christians – but let’s hope, not just “back then,” but for us too!

The Samaritans were outsiders, to the extreme, for the Jews; 

  • but God is consistent in giving the free gift of grace to those formerly excluded. 
  • Now the aliens are aliens no longer. 
  • All people are eligible candidates for God’s gifts and are made brothers and sisters through their baptism. 
  • What Jesus promises in today’s gospel has happened – the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, has been given us. 
  • Now we are all brothers and sisters in Christ – not orphans, but children of God. 
  • There should be no “outsiders” in our community;
    • none counted as “late-comers,” or second-class parish members.

As we look around our congregation this morning whom have we, or our parishioners, considered Samaritans, the least likely to join us in prayer? 

  • But here they are! 
  • We cannot ignore them, especially if they, like the Samaritans, show signs of the Spirit’s life. 
  • We welcome and respect one another; none are lesser in God’s eyes, nor should they be in ours. 
  • Peter calls us today to “good conduct in Christ.” 
  • What better conduct can we do as a Christians, with past and present differences, than be united as a community of Christ’s disciples?

There’s an “issue” in today’s Acts reading which probably will confuse main-line churchgoers. 

  • It occurs in the second part (8:14-17) and it’s about baptism and the gift of the Spirit. 
  • More fundamental Christians would argue for a baptism of the Holy Spirit to complete the work of Baptism. 
  • Early Christians saw the Spirit working in very obvious, external signs (speaking in tongues, ecstatic behavior, etc.) 
  • And so they expected to find these signs as proof of the Spirit’s presence. 
  • Paul had to deal with how to address the Corinthian community’s manifestations of the Spirit. 
  • While he appreciated these gifts, he also saw how they could cause rivalry and partisanship and divide the church. 
  • Remember where he put the emphasis in his letter to the Corinthians, “There are in the end three gifts that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love (I Cor 13:13). 
  • In our church tradition we might see, in the apostles’ laying hands over the Samaritans and their prayer for the Spirit to come on them, a foretaste of our celebration of Confirmation. 

Today’s gospel has one more selection from Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” to his disciples the night before he died. 

  • He is preparing them for his departure. 
  • He directs them that, if they love him, they will keep his commandments. 
  • It’s what you might expect a religious leader to say before departing: “Here’s my last will and testament.” 
  • Or, “These are my last words to you – don’t forget them!” 
  • But I want to ask, “Where is the book of commandments Jesus left behind? 
  • Let’s open it up and check off how we have been doing.”

It’s a mistake to think that, just before he is about to leave his disciples, Jesus is springing a set of rules on them. 

  • That’s not the way he lived life with his disciples. 
  • We don’t have a rule book to remember him by and guide us. 
  • We may have had a student’s list of proper behavior when we were in high school. 
  • Perhaps now, at work, we have a list of procedures and guidelines which employees are to follow if they want to keep their jobs. 
  • But we don’t have a rule book for Jesus. 
  • We know what he wants us to do:
    • to love one another as he loved us; 
    • to be forgiving and self-sacrificing towards those who need us – even if they don’t deserve it – just as he was with us. 
  • How can you write that down in a rule book? 
  • Or, spell that out in a list of commandments? 
  • Jesus calls us to do more than any law would require. 
  • Laws narrowly define how we are to behave. 
  • But Jesus’ love breaks law’s confines and sets us free to be loving – even towards our enemies.

Jesus makes it clear today that he has not left us, only to return at some later date to see how we have followed his teachings. 

  • Instead, he tells this disciples “I will not leave you orphans, I will come back to you.” 
  • He promises to send them “another Advocate.” 
  • In John’s gospel Jesus was the first Advocate sent by God to us. 
  • Now, he tells us a second, another Advocate, will be given them, “the Spirit of truth,” – the Holy Spirit. 
  • The Spirit will make Jesus present to us. 
  • That Spirit will also open Jesus’ word to us and inform and enable us to live as he did, as children of the loving God Jesus revealed to us.

Love calls and enables us to follow the way of Jesus. 

  • The Spirit he sent us floods us with an awareness of God’s love for us and overflows from us to those around us – even to our enemies. 
  • People will see in our lives signs of the Spirit’s presence in us. 
  • How else could they explain the loving and forgiving ways we live — or are supposed to live?

Next Sunday, 21st May, is the Ascension of Jesus. 

  • The departure he prepared his disciples for will happen and, at first, they will feel his absence. 
  • After he is gone they will have to get busy and live the life he taught them. 
  • But not before they receive the gift of the Advocate he promised. 
  • In John’s Gospel this happens when he appears to them in the upper room after his resurrection. 
  • Each of us is aware how we need that Spirit if we are to reflect Jesus’ risen life to the world. 
  • So, as we wait for our Pentecost, we pray as individuals and the church, “Come Holy Spirit.”

We mainstream Christians, especially Catholics, tend to shy away from terms like, “evangelizing,” “bearing witness,” “giving testimony,” etc. 

  • They sound so “in-your-face.” 
  • It’s what we tend to expect from certain fundamentalist sects. 
  • Still, the one fruit of the Spirit’s presence is to form us as witnesses to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. 
  • I find Peter’s advice to the Gentile churches today helpful as he directs them,
    • “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….” 

Peter knew that Jesus fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit because he knew of the Spirit’s presence in the Gentile Christian churches to whom he was writing. 

  • His advice to them and us, is to live the kind of lives that would move someone to ask about our faith.
  • The presumption being that our lives are distinctive enough to raise questions. 
  • Our response should be one of a gentle respect for the person who asks. 

From today’s I Peter reading:

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….

Reflection:

Peter’s urges Christians to live the kind of exemplary lives that would move someone to ask about our faith. The presumption being that our lives are distinctive and appealing enough to raise interest. When asked about our beliefs, Peter urges us to respond with a gentle respect for the person who asks. 

So, we ask ourselves: 

  • Has you example ever aroused interest in someone about your faith?
  • Did your response lead to a personal sharing of your faith with them? 
  • Have you prayed for them since that discussion? 

Happy Mother’s Day!  – –Mothers Day Blessing

Lord God, 
we give you thanks for the many gifts you have given us;
the gift of life, the gift of those who love us.
We thank you today for the gift of our mothers.
We give thanks for our Mothers who have died
and for the unique way they have revealed your love for us.
We ask that you bless them and keep them in your care
until the time comes for us to join them in your Kingdom.

We ask your Blessing upon the Mothers
who are unable to be with us here today.
May they know how much we love and care for them.
We pray for birth mothers who have loved their children so much
they have shared the gift of their child
with those who could better care for them and their needs,
and give them a secure home.

And we pray for adoptive mothers,
that they may always know their special role of being a true mother,
a revelation of God’s love for their children.
We ask your blessing upon Mothers
who have lost children through stillbirth, crib death,
accident and tragedy, war and violence
that they may have your continuing strength and courage.
We ask your blessing too,
upon those who would very much like to be mothers but who are having trouble having a child.

We ask your Blessing upon all Mothers +.
Give them the strength to live the faithful and loving lives
you call them to live.
Protect and guide them.
Keep them in your care.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Communion Antiphon.

If you love me, keep my commandments, says the Lord, and I will ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete, to abide with you for ever, alleluia.

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