Sunday sermon for May 21, 2017, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that anyone who loves Him will be loved by His father; Jesus will also love that person and reveal Himself to that person. To make clear what He is saying, He tells us that the person who knows and follows His commandments is the one who loves Him. In other words, love is not just an emotional feeling or something that is felt in the senses. Rather, it is a virtue that is lived in our day to day life by doing always what is right and just.
What is so exciting about our Lord’s promise is that He is willing to reveal Himself to us. On the one hand, He has already done this objectively through His self-revelation during His life on earth, in the Sacred Scriptures, and through the teaching of the Church. These revelations can be grasped by the mind and might never find their way into our hearts. The revelation about which He speaks in today’s Gospel reading is a more personal and intimate revelation; more than that, it is in the heart.
Our Lord told the Apostles that the Father would give us the Spirit of Truth Whom the world cannot accept because it neither sees or knows Him. He assures His Apostles that they know the Holy Spirit; but again, to know Him in the mind and to love Him in the heart are two related but very different things. In the first reading we hear about the Apostles Peter and John laying hands on people so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. This was necessary because at the time they had only been baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
We have all received the Holy Spirit because we were baptized in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. So, the Holy Spirit has been given to each of us, but we have to ask if we know Him or even want Him. He is the Spirit of Truth; if we have chosen the ways of the world, we will have no place in our hearts for the Holy Spirit because the world does not want the truth. The world has rejected even natural level truth; it certainly does not want supernatural truth.
When the people of Samaria heard the truth Philip spoke, they accepted what he said and they wanted it for themselves. The Samaritans who received this Word and lived according to the Spirit would certainly have stood out from the way most of the people in the area were living their lives. They would most likely have been ridiculed and persecuted for what they believed and how they lived. One might suggest that it would have been prudent just to keep their beliefs hidden, but that is not what St. Peter instructs us to do.
In the second reading he tells us that we have to be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for the reason for our hope. Well, they had to have noticed that there was something different or they would not have inquired in the first place. But St. Peter does not stop there. He speaks about being maligned and defamed for our good conduct in Christ. He goes on to tell us that it is better to doing good that to suffer for doing evil. He then reminds us that this is the example given to us by our Lord.
Imagine if we suggested that Jesus should just have kept everything hidden. After all, it would have spared Him from suffering and being put to death. Perhaps Philip should have kept things hidden; the people of Samaria would not have been converted to the Lord. If Jesus had been “prudent” ours sins would not be forgiven and we would not be saved; if the Apostles had been “prudent” the Gospel would not have been preached. Once again, we see a stark difference between the way of the world and the way of the Lord.
The way of the Lord is love. One can keep knowledge hidden, but it is not possible to keep love hidden. Our world has rejected both truth and love, but as human persons we are created for both truth and love. People are desperate for truth and love, but they are only going to encounter them if someone is “imprudent” enough to express both so that others can see and hear. Jesus is the Truth and Jesus is Love. Therefore, if we have our Lord’s commandments and live accordingly, which will automatically set us apart in today’s world, then we are revealing truth and love to the world. Of course, some will ridicule and reject us, but for others, it will be the means to salvation.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.