Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014

Homily for the  6th Sunday of Easter, Year A  2014

As we rapidly approach the Feast of Pentecost, the event that Jesus promised the Apostles would happen and would complete his mission on the earth, the readings we have today all concern themselves with the Spirit. In our first reading today, as we continue through the history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives us what we would consider evidence today for the sacrament of confirmation.  As you know, the sacrament of confirmation is the full receipt of the Holy Spirit that traditionally comes for a person that has been baptized as a child, when the child reaches the age of reason and has the ability to choose to follow his or her faith.  With adults the sacrament of Confirmation usually accompanies Baptism.  In the story we are told today, we hear about the preaching of the disciple Philip that brings about the beginning of the Samaritan church. Philip obviously makes a great impression on the Samaritan people who seemed to be quite eager to hear his message to them. Along with his preaching there were many miracles and healings that took place which convinced many of the people there to accept the word of God that Philip was preaching. Philip apparently baptized a great number of the Samaritans.  It is interesting if you remember here that the Samaritans were considered enemies of the Jews, even though they believed in the same God and followed the same Scriptures. It would have been quite an event for people considered sinners and enemies to become part of the emerging Christian communities. It shows us how accepting we need to be in our own church today.

After this event, the Apostles Peter and John went to the Samaritans to pray for them, laying hands on them and allowing them to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We still use this model today when we ask the local Bishop or his representative to come and confirm at each parish.

The Second Reading from First Peter also is about the Spirit. The author is concerned with giving suffering some meaning, because many of the followers of Christ were being persecuted at this time. Peter suggests that if one suffers even though they are doing good works or for being a Christian then they become part of the sacrifice that happened for us when Christ suffered and died. They are able to join in with his suffering, suffering that leads to something good or something better. Peter says we are not to be afraid to profess our faith and our hope, and that we should be gentle and reverent in preaching the Good News. The last lines of this section bring us to the Spirit. Peter says that Jesus was put to death in the flesh but was made alive in the spirit. The Spirit is Jesus alive with us today. The Spirit works with us, through us and is in us.

This is the Spirit that Jesus today in John’s Gospel calls the Advocate. An advocate is someone who pleads for another in court or who intercedes for others when they can’t speak for themselves. This theologically dense section of the Gospel today is the best description we have of the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus first indicates that he himself is our advocate to the father in heaven. He has taken the case of men and women and pleaded to the Father. Because he cannot be with us forever, since his advocacy involves dying for us, God the father will send another Advocate who will always be with us till the end of time.  Jesus tells the Apostles that this advocate will be the Spirit of truth, and will be someone that the world does not understand because it cannot know the Spirit. Once again the will of God is not like our own. The world neither sees the Spirit or knows it.

But Jesus tells the Apostles that they will know the Spirit because the Spirit will come to them, be in them, and abide with them. Jesus knows that he must leave the Apostles physically, but he does not want to abandon them – to leave them orphans. 

He and the Spirit are one and so through the Spirit Jesus will be with us. In worldly terms, Jesus will not be physically present and the world will not see him, but he tells the Apostles that they will see him, and because he live-in the Spirit, they will live also. The we have the beautiful sentence which ties the Trinity to us: “On that day you will know that i am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” God will be present in each of us. We are indeed temples of the Lord.

Finally, Jesus stresses and re-iterates his law of love. We love Jesus by carrying out  his double commandment of loving God and neighbor. Because of that love, God will also love us and Jesus will reveal himself to us. This is really a high theology that John is describing, hard to understand in human, earthly terms, but in spiritual terms is so hopeful, so beautiful, so loving. 

Next week we will celebrate the Ascension of the Lord – the moment when Jesus goes back to the father and sits at his right hand. After just a few days in our time, the Spirit, promised by Jesus, will be present for the first time as the Apostles receive it at Pentecost. All the readings today look forward to that event as we near the end of our Easter season. This week let us look at how we are able show our love of God and neighbor, find ways to show that love and prepare for the two great feasts that are soon coming.

Let us continue to celebrate and hear this Good News as we approach the birthday of the Church, the coming of God’s Spirit to us.

Bishop Ron Stephens 

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – Teaching the Church Year”]



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