Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020
Have you had this conversation lately?
Is today Tuesday or Wednesday?
Wow! You have lost track of time. It’s Friday!
During this time of “shut down,“ when most folks are only venturing out of the house in order to deal with necessities, it’s easy to get disoriented. In the same way, the Readings during the Easter Season can leave us wondering:
Wait! What? When did that happen?
As we cross this bridge between Easter and Pentecost, our First Reading is always from the Acts of the Apostles. No problem there. “Acts” is the continuation of Luke’s Gospel. Essentially, it is the story of how the early Church blossomed and grew. The passage we hear on this Sixth Sunday of Easter reminds us of the unparalleled power of The Holy Spirit.
It is helpful to put today’s passage in context. St. Stephen had already suffered martyrdom and the efforts by the authorities in Jerusalem have intensified in hopes of suppressing the fledgling Church. Persecutions have begun in earnest. Having already received the fullness of The Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the disciples recommit to proclaiming the Good News. Still, they appreciate the need to self-protect. Accordingly, the leaders encourage the community to escape the threat of arrest by seeking shelter in outlying villages. They took the Good News with them, and as people were converted and baptized, the fullness of Holy Spirit was quick to follow.
Acts concluded, but the story of our Church continues with each succeeding generation. We keep the story alive. In the future, these will be times remembered for the need to self-protect and escape danger, among other things, by refraining from public Masses. But we cannot let that define us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be remembered by the way we inspired others to follow Christ…facing the challenges of a global health crisis with ever stronger faith, unshakable hope, and intensified love…LOVE…reflected in Christian outreach to those in greatest need. If we embrace the same Spirit Who sustained and fortified the early Church, we will come through this current crisis stronger for the experience.
The same Spirit that fortified and motivated the early Christian community dwells with us and within us today. If we draw on the gifts freely given by the Holy Spirit, we will live a seamless story during this very significant chapter of salvation history.
Jumping ahead at least 30 years, our 2nd Reading carries us to Rome. Tradition tells us St. Peter himself wrote this letter of encouragement to a Gentile community, just before he was martyred for our faith.
For Christians of all ages, the message is highly relevant, particularly in times of uncertainty and danger, like we are presently experiencing. Through Baptism, we enjoy a rebirth in The Holy Spirit, Who provides an arsenal of weapons enabling us to defeat all that threatens us.
Finally, John’s Gospel jolts us back in time. Before He was taken from us…before our Church was “born,” Jesus assured us that He would not abandon us, leaving us defenseless against anyone or anything that would do us harm. The Lord promised to send The Holy Spirit…THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH…Who would be with us ALWAYS!
And the truth is this: The Spirit is with us today…in our hearts and in our homes. Whether or not we gather for the public celebration of our faith, our church is still alive.
Have you had this conversation lately?
What day is it?
It doesn’t seem like Sunday when we don’t go to Mass.
In challenging times, it is easy to become confused…lost…even disoriented. But in today’s Gospel, we see how Jesus orients us toward the Holy Spirit. So, in the coming week, let’s look forward to, and prepare for the celebration of Pentecost. It seems unlikely that we will gather to celebrate the birth of our Church inside our parish churches…but make no mistake about it…there is still a great outpouring of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit for those who love the Lord and keep His commandments. Keep the faith…The Holy Spirit is with us!