6th Sunday of Easter (Fr. Francis)
Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter. As we approach the feast of Pentecost, the Church invites us to celebrate the coming of the Advocate. She calls us to celebrate the Spirit of truth who strengthens us in the proclamation of the good news. The message we bear is not false, rather, it comes from the Advocate.
Our first reading is a continuation of the frantic efforts the disciples of Christ are making in order to bear testimony to the risen Lord. Through their efforts, the Samaritans received their Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. On this day, Peter performed his episcopal function by laying hands upon the new converts.
Since Philip baptized these new converts, why did he not confirm them? Why was it necessary for Peter and John to travel that long distance, in order to lay hands on, (or confirm) the new converts already baptized by Philip? An understanding of our Catholic Catechism is very important here.
What Philip did by inviting Peter (the chief Shepherd of the Apostles), was absolutely in line with the Church’s teaching on Confirmation: “The ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the bishop. If the need arises, He may grant the faculty to priests, although, it is fitting that he confers it himself mindful that the celebration of Confirmation has been temporarily separated from baptism for this reason. Bishops are the successors of the apostles” (CCC 1313).
The Samaritans needed the Holy Spirit as much as we do today because, it is the Holy Spirit that strengthens and makes one a true soldier of Christ (CCC 1303-4). He helps us to bear witness to the truth without fear: “You have not received the Spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of sonship. The Spirit bears witness that we are God’s Children” (Rom 8:15-16). It is this same Spirit that resurrected Christ that gives life to our mortal body (Rom 8: 11). As the principal agent of evangelization, He confirms the truth we preach.
In the second reading, Peter encouraged us to have reverence for Christ. Also, he admonished us to treat with respect even those who despise the gospel we preach. Hence, he reminds us of the animating power of the Holy Spirit even in the life of Christ: “In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.” It is the same spirit that raised Jesus that sustains us in the truth. This means that once the Spirit of God comes upon us, we become active for Christ, because: “What gives life is the spirit of God (John 6: 63).
As we are a couple of weeks away from Pentecost, in today’s gospel, Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. However, He gives a condition for receiving the Advocate: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” When we do this, he adds: “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that spirit of truth…I will not leave you orphans.”
What is this commandment that we must keep in order to receive the Spirit of truth? It is: “Go into the whole world and preach the good news to all creation (Mk 16: 15). It is also, a command to love both God, and our neighbor (Luke 10, 25-27). When we do this, we are certainly preaching the good news of truth. The advocate will come to strengthens us in the way of truth. He will also come to confirm that in deeded, we are sons of God. So, let us pray: Come, O Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth, alleluia.
Fr. A. Francis HGN