6th Sunday of Easter Year A
Theme of the week: The Holy Spirit was bestowed upon us at baptism. He reveals heavenly truth to us, and gives us the grace, wisdom and strength to sustain our Christian living.
As Pentecost approaches, we hear in this week’s readings how the Holy Spirit changes lives.
The Hellenist (Greek-speaking Jewish) converts, persecuted by the Aramaic-speaking Jews, were living away from Jerusalem. The First Reading tells of how Phillip, a Hellenist Christian leader, brought about a Pentecost-like event in Samaria, leading to the conversion of many. The statement that the Holy Spirit “had not come upon” (verse 16) the Samaritans on their baptism is a curious one. At first glance, this seems to contradict what Peter, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, said on Pentecost Day: “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) This apparent contradiction stems perhaps from the fact the Phillip was not sent to Samaria in an official capacity. This may be why the Apostles subsequently sent Peter and John in an official capacity to complete the initiation process. On arriving, Peter and John administered what was in fact an early practice of the Sacrament of Confirmation, where an official leader of the Church (a role played by the Bishop in the present day) prays over the newly converts, so that the works of the Holy Spirit may be invoked upon them.
Initiated as members of Christ’s Church and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Second Reading calls upon all Christians to a mission: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you” (verse 15). Jesus has given us a mission to evangelise, to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). More than elaborate ceremonies and charismatic words, our living examples are often the strongest form of evangelisation. The passage then goes on to explain the association between sufferings and Christian living. In living to the teaching of Christ, sometimes and almost inevitably, it attracts persecutions and accusations. In spite of this, we are urged to remain steadfast to our faith. After all, “Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God” (Verse 18). In emulation of Christ, we in turn must do the same for others. This is not easy – and by our own strength, almost impossible. We pray that the Holy Spirit give us the grace, wisdom and strength to live by the teachings of this passage.
In the Gospel, Christ promised us the Holy Spirit, who would take his place and continue to reveal heavenly truth to us. At Jesus’ Ascension, salvation history transited from the Age of the Son to the Age of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus explained in this passage, he is made present through the Spirit. And since Christ is in the Father and we are in Christ, a mysterious unity is established between us the Holy Trinity. This, my brothers and sisters, is grace. Amen.