21May 21 May, 2017. 6th Sunday of Easter

See the Presider’s Page, for a suggested Opening Comment, Alternative Opening Prayer, Prayers of the Faithful, etc.

1st Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip’s mission in Samaria shows the joy of the original Gospel faith

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:15-18

One must be prepared for persecution, in the following of Christ

Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.

Gospel: John 14:15-21

The Spirit is in those who love God and show it in their actions

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 Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”


The Spirit of Truth

(Kieran O’Mahony)
The “Spirit of truth” has a special ring today, as we apparently live in the post-truth era of “alternative facts.” Of course, the kind of truth John’s Gospel has in mind is not simply veracity or evidential truth but the truth of relationship. When someone says to me, by words or gesture, “I will be true to you”, we are talking about the foundational truth of relationships and, indeed, the foundational truth of God’s faithfulness in Jesus. This is the real truth, the truth which will set us free. In our Gospel, the emphasis is still on the figure of Jesus but, as the Farewell Discourse unfolds, the role of the Holy Spirit will be richly disclosed.

(Click here for Kieran’s exegetical comments on today’s readings)

The Spirit of Truth

(José Antonio Pagola)

Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. He sees them sad and upset, because soon they won’t have him with them – and who can fill that void? Until now he has been the one who took care of them, defended them from the Scribes and Pharisees, sustained their weak and faltering faith, described for them the truth of God, and initiated them into God’s great family project for humanity.

Jesus speaks to them passionately about the Spirit. He doesn’t want to leave them orphans. He himself will ask the Father not to abandon them, to give them «another Advocate» that will «always be with them». Jesus calls this advocate «the Spirit of truth». What is hidden behind these words of Jesus?

This «Spirit of truth» mustn’t be confused with a doctrine. This truth won’t be sought in theologians’ books or in the hierarchy’s documents. It’s something much more profound. Jesus says that this Spirit «lives in us and is within us». This Spirit is encouragement, power, light, love… that reaches us from God’s ultimate mystery. We must welcome this Spirit with a simple and trusting heart.

This «Spirit of truth» doesn’t change us into «owners» of the truth. It doesn’t come so that we impose our faith on others, or control their orthodoxy. It comes so that we aren’t left as orphans of Jesus, and invites us to be open to Jesus’ truth: listening, welcoming and living his Gospel.

Nor does this «Spirit of truth» make us «keepers» of the truth, but witnesses. Our task isn’t to argue with, oppose or overthrow adversaries, but to live the truth of the Gospel and «love Jesus, keeping his commands».

This «Spirit of truth» is within each one of us, defending us from all that can separate us from Jesus. It invites us to open ourselves with simplicity to the mystery of a God who is the Friend of life. Whoever seeks this God with honesty and truth isn’t far off from God. Jesus said on one occasion: «Everyone who is of the truth, listens to my voice». That’s both a deep truth and a challenging invitation.

This «Spirit of truth» invites us to live in the truth of Jesus in the midst of a society where all too often “Alternative Facts” masquerade as the truth. How often nowadays are lies justified as strategy, exploitation is called business, irresponsibility is called tolerance, injustice is called status quo, arbitrariness is called freedom, lack of respect is called sincerity….

  1. What meaning does Jesus’ Church have if we allow ourselves in our communities to lose this «Spirit of truth»?
  2. Who can save it from self-deception, dead ends, generalized mediocrity?
  3. Who will announce the Good News of Jesus in a society that is so in need of encouragement and hope?

Our sense of the sacred

In times past, children were required to show respect not just to their parents but to all their elders. Our teachers and priests were always acknowledged with a salute when we passed them in the street. Other adults we greeted with “Good morning, Sir” or “Good evening, Ma’am” depending on the time of day. These courtesies were invariably observed among adults themselves. A similar gesture survives in rural Ireland as a mark of respect for the dead: men still uncover their heads when a funeral hearse passes and many will bless themselves. Now most of these formalities have gone, like the world of my childhood which valued them so highly.

Their end was hastened by the cinema and television, with a tacit link being made between egalitarianism and informality. The cowboys and crooks, the cops and hoodlums on the big screen were not noted for their courtly manners. They shot from the hip, verbally as well as with their guns. And audiences were eager students, shedding their manners like an elderly relative. Nowhere seems to have escaped this new informality. What Hollywood did for secular society, the vernacular liturgy introduced into the church. We seem to have lost some of our sense of the sacred. For us, the Real Presence was real indeed. Whatever contribution the new liturgy has made, and its contribution is very real, this sense of the sacred has been an unintended casualty. It demystified the Mass and like the sixteenth century Reformers, “stripped the altars.” Gone are the “Thou’s” of God language, like the altar rails that once enclosed the sanctuary, and God has joined our egalitarian ranks.

“Reverence the Lord in your hearts,” Peter tells us in today’s reading. If God is not revered as sacred, nothing is sacred anymore. Neither husband for wife, nor wife for husband, neither parents for children, nor children for parents. Maybe that accounts for the growing break-down in families. And in a timely warning to those in Ireland and elsewhere engaged in religious debate, he urges them to make their arguments “with courtesy and respect.” These two qualities are notably absent in most religious disputes. Reverence for God, respect for persons and courtesy are all facets of the same virtue. Those who are courteous may not always be believers, but the discourteous can never be true followers of Jesus Christ.