I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God’s Spirit is released in us through suffering

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Jesus' words in the Gospel reading for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, which were spoken before Pentecost, help us to understand the first readings, which took place after Pentecost.

Jesus tells His disciples, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him."

By definition, an advocate is a person who publicly supports the cause of another. Jesus says He will ask His Father who will give His own Holy Spirit to the disciples to be their advocate while here in the world. This advocate will support them in their efforts to live out Christ's teachings and help them to understand how to give witness to Jesus in the public square.

This advocate will be the "Spirit of truth whom the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows Him." Jesus makes it very clear that this Spirit of truth will contradict the wisdom of the world, and the implication is very simple. The followers of Jesus should prepare themselves, because living out Christ's commandments will bring suffering.

He continues, "But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you." Hence, this advocate who will plead their case before the world is no less than the Holy Spirit of God, who will dwell within them.

This consoles the disciples — and us — knowing that they carry within the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a constant friend and companion. When confronted with the challenges of the world, we depend upon the Holy Spirit to support us in living out the teachings of Jesus. Even when the world opposes us, the Holy Spirit gives comfort and support. In fact, the Holy Spirit even gives comfort when following Jesus' teachings brings suffering. This, in turn, unites us more closely with Jesus.

Jesus continues, "And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." Again and again after Pentecost, His disciples felt loved and supported by God when they gave witness to the teachings of Jesus.

Persecution only brought alive the Holy Spirit within them, leading them to speak more courageously on behalf of Jesus and His salvation.

The first reading fulfills Jesus' promise in the Gospel. Philip went down to the Samaritans, who were rejected by the Jews, and preached the Good News to them and, in spite of being Samaritans, they were baptized, and they saw Philip work many signs and wonders confirming the preaching of Jesus. "For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in the city."

When the apostles heard that the Samaritans had accepted the Good News and were baptized, they went down and prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit. "They laid hands on them and received the Holy Spirit." Hence, the apostles wanted to make certain that the Samaritans were one in faith with the Church in Jerusalem.

The Samaritans receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of many Jewish people in Jerusalem.

The second reading, written by Peter, is a fulfillment of Jesus' predictions in the Gospel. Peter addresses the sufferings experienced by followers of Christ. By telling them, "Sanctify Christ as the Lord in your hearts," he says in effect that when they are persecuted, they should remain in Christ's teaching and not retaliate, but embrace the ensuing suffering.

Peter tells 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, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil."

To put it another way, Peter tells them that when they embrace persecution joyfully, they are giving powerful witness to the God within them. Joy in the midst of persecution is an outbreak of God's goodness in the midst of evil.

How will the world ever know that God dwells within us unless the Spirit of God is released in us through persecution? On the one hand, we don't like the suffering that comes with witnessing, but on the other hand, we relish the joy of witnessing to the teachings of Jesus in the face of those who oppose us.

You may not be asked to gloriously shed your blood for the sake of the Gospel, but you and I are being asked daily to shed some of our compulsive behavior. Daily we are asked to give witness to the Gospel, when it challenges the movements of anger, resentment, lust and un-forgiveness that arise within us. Daily obedience to the teachings of Jesus are challenging but purifying. Someone once said, "You can always recognize the school of obedience by the two big, black heel marks all the way in!"

The Holy Spirit puts spice into our daily relationship with Jesus. Let's daily ask Jesus to baptize us in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. 

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