for the sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 - 1 Pt 3:15-18 - Jn 14:15-21
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
Life in the Spirit
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Acts 8:5, Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6, 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. 7, For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8, So there was much joy in that city. 14, Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16, for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17, Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Shortly after Pentecost, the Apostles chose coworkers for themselves by instituting deacons "to serve tables" (Acts 6:2). We spoke about this last Sunday. But this is but one aspect of the function of the deacon. Like all ministers of the Lord, and moreover like all the faithful (although in a different way), the deacon is destined, through his ministry, to proclaim the Word of God: in the holy liturgy, he proclaims the gospel of the Lord, and he may be called to preach and to teach the People of God. As Saint Luke says in the Acts of the Apostles we read today, the deacon Philip "went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ." (Acts 8:5)
Through the hands of the Apostles, Philip, like his companions who were chosen along with him, had received the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 6:6). He had received the "power from on high" (Lk 24:49). He had received the Gift of the Holy Spirit for the Salvation of the People of God. For he who becomes a minister of the Lord receives particular gifts destined for the sanctification and the salvation of the faithful who are entrusted to him. This was true of the deacon Philip who, thanks to the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the "power of the Most High" (Lk 1:35), performed great miracles, manifest signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God among men! "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." (Acts 8:6-7)
Every minister of the Lord, and thus every deacon, is also a believer among believers. So, in the measure that he is attentive to the Gift of God he received for his ministry, the deacon, and every minister of the Lord, can benefit from this Gift himself. Let us recall what Saint Paul says to Timothy: "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands." (2 Tim 1:6; cf. 1 Tim 4:14) Moreover, the Apostles did not choose the deacons at random. Far from it! They chose the deacons on the basis of their life in the Holy Spirit: "Brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom." (Acts 6:3) And it is said of Stephen, the first of the martyrs of the New Covenant, that he was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5). Whether ministers or believers, all are called to live in the Spirit!
1 Pt 3:15-18
1 Pt 3:14, Have no fear of [those who would harm you], nor be troubled, 15, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; 16, and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17, For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong. 18, 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.
Saint Peter, in today's second reading, reassures us, saying: "Have no fear of those who would harm you, nor be troubled." (1 Pt 3:15) Saint Peter reassures us, for the Holy Spirit is there, he dwells in us, he is there to defend us! If we take care to live in sanctity, having a "clear conscience" (1 Pt 3:16), and being ever conscious of our destiny, which is eternal Life, then, we will not fear the threats of men and we will not be troubled! If we are always ready to witness to our hope in Eternal life, then He who prays in us and who already begins to satisfy this blessed hope, He whom Jesus left as our Defender, the Holy Spirit, will make us as firm and solid as the Rock, who is Christ! Let us live in the Holy Spirit!
Jn 14:15, Jesus said to his disciples, «If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16, And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17, 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. 18, I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. 19, Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. 20, In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21, 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.»
These words of Jesus in this Sunday's gospel are taken from the discourse of the Master during the last Passover meal. Jesus invites his disciples, and us, to live in Love, which is nothing other than the Holy Spirit. This Love, which is God, is a Gift-Love, a Love that gives itself. The Holy Spirit gives himself to us, in Jesus, in order that we too might give ourselves to the Father, in Jesus, through Mary! How could we hesitate to give ourselves wholly to God? The Lord waits for us! The Lord expects us to play an active part in the Mission of the Church, notably by consecrating ourselves to his service as ordained ministers, in Love!
Jesus has done everything for us, for me! What would I do for Christ? Let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary to help us understand how great God's Love is!