Sunday Scripture Readings

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 5 Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21 OUR GOOD NEWS: The Holy Spirit, Jesus' greatest gift to us, his Church. Just who is the Holy Spirit, and can we encounter the Spirit nowadays? Each of today's readings provide answers to puzzling questions about who the Holy Spirit is and what he does and how we experience him. The first reading describes the success of Philip, evangelist among the despised Samaritans. The Spirit empowers missionary outreach to unbelievers, reconciles enemies divided by hatred and misunderstanding, and unites into one Church diverse nations and peoples. By calling down the Spirit upon newly converted Samaritans, Peter and John brought them into fellowship with the whole Christian community, not just the Hellenist faction to which Philip belonged. These two Apostles thus healed a 500-year schism dividing historical Israel. According to today's psalm, the Spirit causes believers in every age and place to experience personally the same marvelous acts of divine liberation with which our Israelite ancestors were blessed because of Jesus' self-sacrifice. These were delivered from slavery to sin, from hopeless and meaningless existence, above all, from final death. No merely human effort could earn this marvelous blessing. And so we sing in profound gratitude: "Let all the earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name! Come and see the works of God, his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam." The second reading celebrates how the Spirit makes possible God-fearing lives in the midst of opposition and persecution, evoking from God a love that returns only good to those who hurt and destroy. Reverence and honor toward God come to concrete expression in a whole style of life that disturbs unbelievers' peace of mind by challenging values and the sinful way they live. We are warned by the author of First Peter that quiet, God-fearing Christians shouldn't be surprised at angry outbursts of resentment and militant confrontation. Pagans are threatened by our hope, our radical trust in God that shapes how we think, act and live. Just by being what we are exposes the shallow, meaningless lives of godless persons. The Gospel reminds us that the Spirit causes Jesus to be truly present in his Church. The Spirit reveals what God is really like by empowering mutual love within the community and providing trustworthy guidance in changing situations. The Easter season began with contemplation of Jesus' spectacular post-Resurrection appearances to chosen disciples. We move now to meditation on his less dramatic but more wonderful and valuable continuing presence in the Church as exalted Lord through the Holy Spirit. Memories of the first Easter thus flow into the present. Thanks to the Spirit, the risen Lord is the common possession of all Christians in every time and place. Thus, first followers enjoyed no essential advantage over us and all subsequent generations of disciples.

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