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“Hear the Word!” by Bill Ayres: Third Sunday of Easter


A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 5:27-32, 40B-41)
 
Many commentators on the scriptures call the Acts of the Apostles the Acts of the Spirit and for good reason. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the early Church is chronicled throughout this book. The author wants it to be very clear that Jesus gave his Spirit to the disciples and that all that they do is through the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
I don’t know what your experience of the Holy Spirit was in Catholic school or religious education classes, but I went to Catholic grammar school, high school, and college, and I knew almost nothing about the Holy Spirit. I certainly had no clue about the important role the Spirit played in the early Church, nor did I know that the very presence of the Spirit was in me and all my classmates. The Holy Spirit was truly the forgotten member of the Blessed Trinity. If you had a similar experience, then let’s face it—we all were deprived of a most important truth of our faith. That was not the intention of Jesus, as we read here of “the Holy Spirit whom God has given.” Let us rejoice this Easter season and in all seasons in the presence of our life partner, the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the other disciples were never alone in their challenges, suffering, and even death. Neither are we.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13)
 
“I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me.” How often and in how many ways has God rescued you? Think about it, and you will most likely come up with a rather long list.
 
A reading from the the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 5:11-14)
 
Do you find the readings we hear during this time of Easter to be weird, over the top, incomprehensible? You are not alone. This is apocalyptic writing meant to give people courage in the midst of persecution and immanent disaster through symbols and stories that were not comprehensible to outsiders but were hope-filled for the early Christians. The basic message throughout is, hold on, have faith despite your persecution and trials. God is greater than all this, and you will be rewarded.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 21:1-19)
 
Numbers are often symbolic in the Bible. For example, the number of 153 fish that the apostles caught represents all the different types of fish that were known in that region. More important, the three times that Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” connects to the three times that Peter denied knowing Jesus. It is an amazing story. The first leader of our Church was a “Jesus denier,” a man so filled with fear that he denied even knowing this man that he now professes to love. Peter is no longer afraid and acts in a courageous way right up to his death. How did he have this profound change of heart? Love, as Jesus said, “Love casts out fear.”
 
We are all afraid many times in our lives for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we are afraid for our own safety or the safety of loved ones. Sometimes it is a fear of failure or even a fear of success. But, we can’t live our lives in fear. It will destroy our joy and possibly our very lives. Peter overcame his fear because of his deep love for Jesus and because, despite his fears and faults, he was in turn loved by Jesus. Jesus loves us in the same way, not only for our successes but in the midst of our fears, disappointments, and failures. Jesus is with us always, not only when we are “good” but especially when we are struggling, tempted, and overwhelmed.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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