A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 8:5-8, 14-17)
Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles as a continuation of his Gospel. He wanted to show the growth and struggles of the first Christian communities. In today’s passage, we read about Phillip reaching out to the people of Samaria whom Jews considered heretics but who also looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. The Samaritans were converted because they saw signs. “For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.” So 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 receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not 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.”
There seems to be some confusion in the early Church about when the gift of the Holy Spirit is given—at baptism or later, as here. Today, we believe that the Holy Spirit is given to us when we receive the sacrament of baptism and then strengthened with the sacrament of confirmation. Unfortunately, many of us were never really taught about this amazing gift of the Holy Spirit being present in us at all times, whether we realize it or not. Whatever befalls us or the world around us, let us remember that the Spirit of God is always with us.
(Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20)
“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Where is there joy in your life now? How are you thanking God for whatever or whoever is giving you joy, even amidst sorrow and frustration?
A reading from the First Letter of Peter
The first Christians suffered greatly in several ways. Many of their Jewish brethren thought they were crazy or had lost their faith. The Roman rulers thought they were dangerous and disloyal to Rome. Peter tells the Christians, “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 be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is the will of God, than for doing evil.”
That is so hard, suffering for doing good, being misunderstood, losing family or friends when you should not be blamed. Don’t give up. Try to work it out. But also, do not allow it to deeply harm you. Continue to pray but also move on as best you can to the more positive dimensions of your life.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask my 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 in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come too 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 anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.’”
When John wrote this, he was an old man who had decades to collect his memories and try to convey the deepest meaning that he could. Many have called this a “Love Gospel,” and so it is. As an old man, John was still enflamed with the love he experienced long ago from a man who John knew was more than that, in fact, that Jesus was the Presence of God. That is the basis of our faith in the all-loving, ever present God who lives in us and among us.
Painting: The Apostle St. John Evangelista (circa 1611), Peter Paul Rubens. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Public Domain.
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.