Sixth Sunday of Easter – A

 

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Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Mighty God,

in whom we know the power of redemption,

you stand among us in the shadows of our time.

As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,

uphold us with knowledge of the final morning

when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,

we will share in his resurrection,

redeemed and restored to the fullness of life

and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant, almighty God,

that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these

days of joy,

which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,

and that what we relive in remembrance

we may always hold to in what we do.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria

and proclaimed the Christ to them.

With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip

when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.

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 that city.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem

heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,

they sent them Peter and John,

who went down and prayed for them,

that they might receive the Holy Spirit,

for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;

they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Then they laid hands on them

and they received the Holy Spirit.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 699 The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them.1 In his name the apostles will do the same.2 Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given.3 The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the “fundamental elements” of its teaching.4 The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.

CCC 1288 “From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.”5

CCC 2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things.6 To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!”7 Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.”8 It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

1 Cf. Mk 6:5; 8:23; 10:16.

2 Cf. Mk 16:18; Acts 5:12; 14:3.

3 Cf. Acts 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6.

4 Cf. Heb 6:2.

5 Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659; cf. Acts 8:15-17; 19:5-6; Heb 6:2.

6 Cf. Acts 8:9-24.

7 Acts 8:20.

8 Mt 10:8; cf. already Isa 55:1.

APPLICATION

Although the convert Samaritans did not receive the Holy Spirit with his visible supernatural gifts immediately, nothing but the power of the Holy Spirit, in Philip and in the Christian message he brought to them, could explain the readiness with which they accepted the Christian truth. They were natural enemies of the Jews for centuries and the enmity was returned heartily. They would have no dealings truck with Jerusalem or with any teacher who came from there, yet they listened to Philip and in “multitudes gave heed with one accord” to what he had to tell them. Nothing but the grace of the Holy Spirit can explain their change of attitude.

When the two Apostles came down from Jerusalem and bestowed the Holy Spirit on them his presence in them was made manifest to all, because of the special gifts that accompanied his bestowal in almost all cases of conversion in the early Church.

People may ask why it is that today, when people receive the sacraments of baptism and confirmation the Holy Spirit does not prove his presence in them by any external signs or miracles. St. Augustine answered that very question centuries ago. He said: When one plants a young tree one waters it regularly and stakes it firmly, but as soon as the tree has taken firm root it needs no further care. So it is with the Church, he said. In its infancy it needed miracles and signs to convince those who believed and to convert those who had not yet believed. But when the Church had taken firm root in the Roman Empire which was the known world of that time, there was no further need for the special intervention of God. The ordinary graces of the Holy Spirit were sufficient.

And so it is with each one of us. We have received the Holy Spirit with what we call his seven gifts and these are sufficient without any miraculous signs to make us soldiers of Christ. As such. we should be active members of his Church ready to do our duty each day, to live the faith, defend the faith when called on, and even if necessary, to die for it.

But to live our faith to the full and to be able to defend it if called on, we need to learn more and more about the truths of our faith. We need to know first and foremost what it promises us, what it means for our true life. A Christian is still a human being but he is no longer a mere human being–he has been made a brother of Christ and an adopted son of God. He is therefore made a citizen of heaven and his earthly life is but a journey to his native home–to a home which he will never have to leave again. When we look on our earthly life from this heavenly point of view most if not all of what we call the trials and troubles of life cease to be impassable mountain ranges and appear as little hillocks over which we can skip lightly. The true Christian who lets this truth be the guiding light of his life, will be well equipped to answer the questionings and hesitations of those who have not yet received the light of faith, or who, having once had it, lost it or let it die through inertia. The illiterate street sweeper who lives his faith devoutly–who never forgets that God loved him so dearly that he sent his only-begotten Son as man on earth in order to bring him to heaven, is a more convincing theologian than the lukewarm author of learned writings. Every devout Christian is an apostle. His very way of living, as well as his daily conversation in the home and outside of it, are lights which radiate all around him. He is a living furnace of divine love which warms and softens the heart of the sinners and the unbelievers with whom he comes into contact.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,

sing praise to the glory of his name;

proclaim his glorious praise.

Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,

sing praise to your name!”

Come and see the works of God,

his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

He has changed the sea into dry land;

through the river they passed on foot;

therefore let us rejoice in him.

He rules by his might forever.

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare

what he has done for me.

Blessed be God who refused me not

my prayer or his kindness!

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

READING II

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1 Pt 3:15-18

Beloved:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.

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.

For Christ also suffered for sins once,

the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,

that he might lead you to God.

Put to death in the flesh,

he was brought to life in the Spirit.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.1 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.2

1 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; I Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.

2 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.

APPLICATION

These first converts to Christianity to whom St. Peter wrote this letter lived in a world which was very similar in many respect to our world of today. There were the self-styled intellectuals who thought they had the solution to all human problems because they had picked up scrips and pieces of the pagan Greek philosophy. There were others whose only thought was to get all they could out of this earthly life and whose motto was., “eat, drink, sleep and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” There were the agnostics whose life was one big question-mark, and who refused to accept any answers. There were the “practical” ones, so busy making a good living for themselves that they had no time to question the real meaning of life.

Who can fail to see the similarity between their world and the world in which we live today? While it is true that the number of Christians in our world today is away above that of St. Peter’s day, it is true also that the number of the opponents of Christianity has increased accordingly. And what is worse, most of these opponents come from Christian parentage and live in countries that are still called Christian.

Add to this, that many, very many of those we number as Christians are so only in name. Unlike the early Christians whose exemplary lives spread the faith very quickly to their pagan neighbors, our nominal Christians spread disrespect for the very name of Christ and for all he did for mankind.

Let us admit it, this is the kind of world in which we live, but it need not remain so. Each one of us, who is convinced of the truth of his faith, must realize that he has a solemn duty to help bring about this necessary change.

St. Peter tells us in a few words today how this can be done. He reminds us of the basic truth of our Christian religion: God created us for heaven. He sent his Son on earth to earn heaven for us. Our real purpose in this life is to work our passage to our true and everlasting home. This we shall do if we keep ever before our minds that Christ was God who came on earth as a man and suffered torments and death in our name and in our stead, so that we too could rise with him after our lives had ended. If we grasp this basic truth–the only true and satisfactory explanation of our sojourn on this earth–our daily actions will be truly Christian; we will gladly “keep our conscience clear” by following the rules of conduct that Christ has laid down for us.

By so doing we will also be prepared always to give an account, an explanation, to those who ask us why we are Christians. Our very lives will be of themselves an explanation and an answer to those who are curious about us, and even to those who while openly opposing and maybe deriding us, are gravely doubting in their hearts, whether it is we or they who are wrong. We can change our world, and in the innermost hearts of the vast majority of our “intellectuals,” our “agnostics” and our “practical men of the world” there is a desire for change. Christ is calling on us today, through his Apostle St. Peter, to help him call home the prodigal sons and the lost sheep. He suffered for them too. Would we turn a deaf ear to his call for help? Not if we reverence him as our Lord, our God. Not if we love our neighbor whom he has made our brother and co-heir with himself to heaven.

GOSPEL

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Jn 14:15-21

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 always,

the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,

because it neither sees nor knows him.

But you know him, because he remains with you,

and will be in you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me,

but you will see me, because I live and you will live.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father

and you are in me and I in you.

Whoever has my commandments and observes them

is the one who loves me.

And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,

and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052117.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 243 Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of “another Paraclete” (Advocate), the Holy Spirit. At work since creation, having previously “spoken through the prophets”, the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them “into all the truth”.1 The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.

CCC 687 “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”2 Now God’s Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who “has spoken through the prophets” makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who “unveils” Christ to us “will not speak on his own.”3 Such properly divine self-effacement explains why “the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him,” while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them.4

CCC 729 Only when the hour has arrived for his glorification does Jesus promise the coming of the Holy Spirit, since his Death and Resurrection will fulfill the promise made to the fathers.5 The Spirit of truth, the other Paraclete, will be given by the Father in answer to Jesus’ prayer; he will be sent by the Father in Jesus’ name; and Jesus will send him from the Father’s side, since he comes from the Father. The Holy Spirit will come and we shall know him; he will be with us for ever; he will remain with us. The Spirit will teach us everything, remind us of all that Christ said to us and bear witness to him. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ. He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

CCC 788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.6 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”7

CCC 2615 Even more, what the Father gives us when our prayer is united with that of Jesus is “another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.”8 This new dimension of prayer and of its circumstances is displayed throughout the farewell discourse.9 In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him: “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”10

CCC 2671 The traditional form of petition to the Holy Spirit is to invoke the Father through Christ our Lord to give us the Consoler Spirit.11 Jesus insists on this petition to be made in his name at the very moment when he promises the gift of the Spirit of Truth.12 But the simplest and most direct prayer is also traditional, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and every liturgical tradition has developed it in antiphons and hymns.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.13

Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasure of all good and source of all life, come dwell in us, cleanse and save us, you who are All Good.14

1 Cf. Gen 1:2; Nicene Creed (DS 150); Jn 14:17, 26; 16:13.

2 1 Cor 2:11.

3 Jn 16:13.

4 Jn 14:17.

5 Cf. Jn 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; 17:26.

6 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

7 LG 7.

8 Jn 14:16-17.

9 Cf. Jn 14:23-26; 15:7, 16; 16:13-15; 16:23-27.

10 Jn 16:24.

11 Cf. Lk 11:13.

12 Cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13.

13 Roman Missal, Pentecost Sequence.

14 Byzantine Liturgy, Pentecost Vespers, Troparion.

APPLICATION

In this discourse at the Last Supper, which was his last will and testament, our divine Lord promised his Church, through the Apostles, that the Holy Spirit would be with it until the end of time. The Spirit of truth will be directing it and effectively aiding it to preserve the faith, the doctrine, and the morals which Christ taught his Apostles.

Looking back now over almost 2,000 years of the Church’s history we can see how this promise has been fulfilled. There were heretics and schismatics who threatened the very continuance of the Church as God’s faithful people on earth. There were crises and near catastrophes caused by the human weaknesses of its heads and its members, yet the Church survived and spread and continued to send saints to heaven because of the direct and active aid of the Holy Spirit.

During those two thousand years great empires have risen and fallen. They had large armies and vast wealth and earthly resources at their disposal, yet they disintegrated like all things human. The names of one-time mighty men who ruled over millions are now nothing more than a nuisance for children in their history classes. The large tracts of our globe which they ruled are now divided and known by other names. This was, is, and will be the lot of all merely human enterprises. Today’s despots, where they rule with iron hand, will share the same fate.

In the midst of all these upheavals the Church of Christ has continued to flourish because it was directed and sustained by the Holy Spirit, who abides within it. How can we ever show enough gratitude to the three Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity who planned so lovingly and so efficaciously for our safe journey to heaven? The Father sent his Son as man among us so that we men could become his brothers, and adopted sons of the Father. The Son suffered hardships, insults and misunderstanding during his temporary stay on earth, and ended like a crucified malefactor because of the sins of mankind. But he rose triumphantly from the dead and set up the Church as a society which would bring to men of all races, ages and colors the salvation and exaltation of mankind, which his life and death had won for us.

Knowing only too well the weaknesses and waywardness of human nature, he and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to remain with his Church as its infallible guide until the last man has entered heaven.

This is a very brief summary of what the Blessed Trinity has done, and is continuing to do for us, through the Church. We, the people of God, the chosen race of the New Testament are God’s Church on earth. It is for you and me that the Holy Spirit is at work this very day. When he guides the steps of Peter’s successor, the Pope, or the deliberations of the bishops, the heirs of the apostolic college, it is for us and for our salvation that he is acting. While we are faithful members of the Church, and of Christ’s mystical body, while we remain live branches safely attached to the vine who is Christ, we have nothing to fear; we are on the sure road to heaven, to enjoy eternal happiness with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit whom we shall thank and glorify forever.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Holy Spirit is Love

The gift of God is the holy Spirit. The gift of God is love – God shares himself as love in the Holy Spirit… The presence of the Holy Spirit makes itself known in the manner of love. Love is the criterion of the Holy Spirit as against unholy spirits; indeed, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit himself and, in that sense, the presence of God. The essential and central concept summing up what the Holy Spirit is and what he effects is, in the end, not “knowledge” but love… The basic criterion of love, its “proper work,” so to speak – and, thereby, the “proper work” of the Holy Spirit – is this, that it achieves abiding. Love shows itself by being enduring. It can by no means be recognized at a given moment and in the moment alone; but in abiding, it does away with uncertainty and carries eternity within it. And thus in my view the relationship between love and truth is also thereby given: love, in the full sense, can be present only where something is enduring, where something abides. Because it has to do with abiding, it can occur, not just anywhere, but only there where eternity is.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Come, Holy Spirit

English

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Latin

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.

Oremus.
Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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