Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Here’s a suggestion for reading this to the Sunday assembly. The passage is a fragment of the story of our origins as a church. So as lector, think of yourself as a family story-teller. Perhaps you’re telling your grandchildren how you migrated to a new country, what threats you escaped, what strange places and customs you observed. Or you are an “original owner” describing to a new neighbor how your subdivision was built up in the 1950’s. Tell the story of the spread of the gospel. This would be easier, surely, if the task were not fragmented over several Sundays. But this mindset can make your proclamation memorable.

Second Reading

So, if you have trouble getting excited about reading this to the Sunday congregation, imagine you are the author of this reading. Providence has brought you out of harm’s way for a while, but fellow believers whom you know and love are in the thick of it. They trust you for your wisdom and holiness. You have only a few sentences with which to encourage them. The stakes are enormous, for they may buckle in the face of persecution and renounce the Lord. They’re counting on you. Draw on God’s Spirit within yourself, and give it your best.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

In Acts, chapter 1, Jesus told his followers to spread the gospel “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes even to the ends of the earth.” It takes a persecution, but the mission takes its first step outside Jerusalem today.

Second Reading

The author of the First Letter of Peter warns persecuted Christians to bear sufferings patiently, and, like Jesus, not return evil for evil.

Gospel

For Christians facing rejection by others, Jesus speaks of various ways that God is with us, and how our ways differ from those of non-believers.

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1ST READINGRESPONSORIAL PSALM2ND READINGGOSPELFAITH SHARINGVOICESCATECHISM

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Detail of 10th century Byzantine icon of St. Philip located at St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai. His left hand holds a scroll and his right is configured for a blessing gesture.
Fr. Eamon Tobin (Orlando Diocese)

The ministry of Philip in Samaria

FIRST READING—The death of Stephen unleashes a persecution of the early church in Jerusalem that sends some of its members scurrying for safety in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). God uses this terrible event to bring the Good News to the people of Samaria, a people despised by Jews. These verses focus on the evangelization ministry of Philip, one of the first deacons. Philip’s preaching is accompanied and confirmed by signs and wonders, which is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy: “You shall do greater works than I.” A second important thing to note in this reading is how these ‘diaspora’(dispersed) communities stay connected to the Mother Church in Jerusalem. Finally, it seems that the laying on of hands for the coming of the Spirit is something reserved for the Apostles.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Additional Reading

Fr. Clement D. Thiboddeau (Portland Diocese)

Samaritans too receive the Holy Spirit

SECOND READING—Already the good news of Jesus Christ is spreading beyond the boundaries of the Jews. Even Samaritans can receive faith. Their faith needs to be confirmed by the apostles through the laying on of hands. The miracles which were part of Jesus’ own ministry now become manifest in the ministry of the Church. This illustrates the fact that it is Jesus who is working through the Church. The power of God at work in Christ is now at work in the Church.

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Mary M. McGlone (National Catholic Reporter)

The unruly freedom of God’s word

EXCERPT—As we are preparing for the feast of Pentecost, seeing the way the early community grew in faith invites us to reflect on our own faith development. Perhaps those of us who were baptized as infants might identify with the Samaritans who apparently didn’t receive the full experiential effect of the faith all at once. As they grew in union with the entire community and received the laying on of hands from the apostles, their faith took on new dimensions. Others, like Cornelius and many of our present-day catechumens, experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit before “conversion,” and came to baptism already impelled by that grace. Finally, although Luke doesn’t underline it, Peter and John had to be growing in their own process of faith as they confirmed Samaritans while being rejected by their co-religionists in Jerusalem.

Perhaps one of the underlying messages of this reading is a reminder of what Pope Francis has called the unruly freedom of God’s word. The entire community is called to evangelize and none of us can predict who will accept God’s word nor through whom the Spirit of God will choose to work.

© 2017 NCR Online. All rights reserved.

Further Study

Reception of the Holy Spirit

The First Reading addresses the second stage in the expansion of the Church according to the command Jesus gave His disciples at His Ascension (Acts 1:8).  The first stage was the baptism of the Church in Jerusalem with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 1:4, 2:1-11). The second stage was the spread of the Gospel throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:5, 40).  The third stage started with the founding of the Church in Gentile lands like Antioch, Syria (Acts 11:20), and from there reaching “to the ends of the earth” (Mt 28:19-20).

Philip in Samaria

It was Philip the deacon who first went to Samaria to proclaim the Gospel.  Samaria was the capital city of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel.  However, after the Assyrian conquest of Israel in the 8th century BC, the Assyrians sent the Israelite population into exile.  Then they brought five Gentile groups into the territory that they renamed Samaria (2 Kngs 17:24).  At the time Philip evangelized in Samaria in the first century AD, the region was a Roman province ruled by the Roman governor whose residence was in Caesarea Maritima on the coast.  The Samaritans were not friendly with the Jews, and the Jews despised the Samaritans who they considered to be either apostate, mixed-race Jews, or heretical former pagans who perverted the Law of Moses.  They did not worship at the Jerusalem Temple but built an illicit temple on Mt. Gerizim (Jn 4:20, 22; 2 Kng 17:6; 24-33).  They only accepted their revised version of the Torah of Moses as canonical Scripture (first five books of the Bible) and rejected all the other sacred texts.

Philip was one of the seven deacons ordained by the Apostles in Acts 8:2-14.  He cannot be Philip the Apostle because Acts records that the Apostles remain in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). The people of Samaria welcomed Philip’s healings and his Gospel message, for they too were expecting the coming of the Messiah (Jn 4:25).  You may recall in Luke 9:51-53 that the people of a Samaritan village would not welcome Jesus or the disciples because they were on their way to Jerusalem.  Now that Jerusalem had rejected Jesus’ emissaries and the Jerusalem Temple authorities declared their hostility toward Christians, the Samaritans were ready to welcome them.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Distinction between Baptism and Confirmation

Acts 8:14-17 ~  Now the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

These verses record a distinction between baptism “in the name of Jesus” and the reception of God the Holy Spirit that completes and perfects baptism.  The same distinction appears in Acts 10:44-48 and 19:1-9.  The Apostles Peter and John imposing their hands upon those baptized by Philip confirm the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Perhaps despite the baptism by Philip in the Trinitarian formula as prescribed by Christ (Mt 28:19), the new mission needed to be certified by the higher authority of Church leadership.  St. Peter is the Church’s first Vicar/Pope and will become Bishop of Rome.  St. John the Apostle will fill the office of Bishop for communities in Asia Minor.  The Church teaches that the “original minister of Confirmation is the bishop” (CCC 1312), and this is the spirit of the mission of Sts. Peter and John in Samaria.

The Church defines the difference between the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation (see CCC 1315-17).  In the Sacrament of Baptism, one receives the Holy Spirit.  However, the Sacrament of Confirmation perfects baptismal grace by rooting the Christian more deeply in divine filiation (son-ship) through the Holy Spirit.  This divine filiation is accomplished by the Holy Spirit incorporating the Christian more firmly into Christ, strengthening the bond with the Church, associating the believer more closely with the Church’s mission, and gives the spiritual strength to bear witness to the Christian faith through words and deeds.  Both Baptism and Confirmation “imprints a spiritual mark or indelible character on the Christian’s soul” (CCC 1317), and it is for this reason that the Sacrament can only be received once in a person’s life.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

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

Fr. Eamon Tobin (Orlando Diocese)

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—A theme of universalism—God’s care for all people—is dominant in this psalm.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

God’s mighty works of salvation

In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist speaks of the salvation of God’s people as a unified covenant nation and as individuals. The Psalm begins with an invitation to all the earth to proclaim the glory of the Divine Name. Next, he mentions what God did for Israel in the Exodus liberation before turning from what God has done for Israel to what God has done for him. Finally, he blesses God, who both hears his prayers and extends His mercy to the psalmist.

Come and see. Come and hear.

The Psalm begins with an invitation to all the earth to proclaim the glory of the Divine Name (verses 1-4).  With the words “Come and see” in verse 5, he invites humanity to come to faith by recognizing what mighty works God has done for the salvation of Israel.  He mentions the miracle of God parting the waters for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians (Ex 14:26-31), and in drying up the waters of the Jordan River so the covenant people could cross over into the Promised Land of Canaan in verse 6 (Josh 3:14-17).  Then, in verses 16-20, the psalmist turns from what God did for Israel in the past to what God has done for him.  The invitation for all who fear offending God to “Come and hear” in verse 16, connects to the “Come and see” of verse 5.  Finally, he blesses God, who hears his prayers and extends His mercy to the psalmist.

Through the Incarnation of God the Son, God the Father extends His Divine Mercy to humankind.  In the work of Jesus Christ, we are invited to both “come and see” and “come and hear” the mighty works of God on behalf of humanity’s salvation.  Jesus has defeated sin and death and has made it possible for all who accept God’s gift of salvation to cross the great void of death into the Promised Land of Heaven.  Those who both love and fear offending God will embrace the gift and will cry out in joy: “Alleluia,” in Hebrew “Hallelujah,” “Praise God, Yahweh!”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

1 Pt 3:15-18

Fr. Eamon Tobin (Orlando Diocese)

Remaining faithful to Jesus

SECOND READING—These verses from 1 Peter exhort the Christians to continue to remain faithful to Jesus even in the face of hostility. If questioned by authorities about their faith, they should be able to explain the hope that is in them, doing so with respect and reverence and not with antagonism. They are encouraged to be faithful Christians so that their witness will be effective.

It is not necessarily God’s will that we should suffer, but it is God’s will that we do good, that we do what is right and just, and if we experience suffering because of that, then we are called to suffer patiently, knowing that suffering is the cost of discipleship, and it is God’s will that we join in his sufferings. Jesus suffered for the unrighteous to bring them to God. In a similar way, followers of Christ are called to suffer at the hands of the unrighteous and trust that God will use such suffering to bring the unrighteous to God.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Additional Reading

Fr. Clement D. Thiboddeau (Portland Diocese)

Our faith and hope are in Christ

SECOND READING—Mature faith can be tested and opposed; it will not waver; it will not turn to violence. Our faith is not contrary to human reason. We can and should give an explanation for the beliefs we hold. We can witness to the community of non-believersby explaining what our faith means to us. It is better to suffer at the hands of non-believers for the faith we hold than to suffer at God’shands for the evil we do in denying him.

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Mary M. McGlone (National Catholic Reporter)

Hope trusts in God

EXCERPT— Hope isn’t based in security or in rational optimism that bets that we have what’s necessary to achieve our goals. In fact, it is precisely the opposite.

Hope trusts in God’s transformative power which, as Paul says, goes beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Hope’s breeding ground is the mucky space where possibilities and security have disappeared. Hope calls us to look directly at those mucky spaces, the lack of love, the poverty and violence that mark our world and to discover and proclaim the Gospel message in those very places.

We will never understand hope if we cling to our securities, keeping ourselves safe from the turmoil that surrounds us. Hope begins just after we have reached our limits. It is something we have to experience before we can preach about it, and the world will quickly see if we know of what we speak.

© 2017 NCR Online. All rights reserved.

Further Study

Life in the Spirit

In the Second Reading, St. Peter writes that God the Holy Spirit is the reason for our hope as the Church moves into the third stage of her mission to evangelize the world.  He urges the faithful to sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (1 Pt 3:15).  St. Peter eloquently states the mission of Christian witness that he urges the communities of the Church spread across Asia Minor to accept.  Christians must always be ready to give a defense or testimony of the Gospel, which is their hope of salvation, even when confronted with persecution and suffering.

Hope of Salvation

Peter writes: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (verse 15b).  It is one of the most frequently quoted verses from St. Peter’s letter that eloquently states the mission of Christian witness that Peter urges the communities of the Church to accept.  Christians must always be ready to give a defense or testimony of the Gospel, which is their hope of salvation, even when confronted with persecution and suffering.  The word “explanation,”  translated from the Greek word apologia, can be used in a legal sense as a “defense” of one’s position as in giving one’s “testimony.”  It is the origin of the word “apologetics,” the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information.  Early Christian writers who defended the Christian faith against critics and gave testimony concerning their faith to others were called “apologists.”  Is it the same word used in Luke 12:11-12 when Jesus told the disciples they would have to defend themselves to rulers/authorities.  It also appears in Acts 22:1 where St. Paul gave a legal defense of his belief in Jesus Christ to the Jewish Sanhedrin and in Acts 25:16 when St. Paul defended his Christian beliefs to the Roman governor Felix and King Agrippa of Judea.  But in this verse, St. Peter uses the word in a more general sense, writing, “to anyone who asks you.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Christ's sufferings and death

17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God than for doing evil.  18 For Christ also suffered for sins once, and 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.

By His suffering and death, the righteous Jesus Christ saved the unrighteous.  By His Resurrection, He received new life in the Spirit, which He now communicates to the faithful through the Sacrament of Baptism.  In Christian Baptism, the believer dies to sin and resurrects to a new life in the Spirit.  Christians do not need to fear but should rejoice in suffering for the sake of the Gospel because their hope of salvation is in Christ, and their lives become sanctified by the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Jn 14:15-21

Fr. Eamon Tobin (Orlando Diocese)

Jesus has not left us orphans

GOSPEL— Jesus promises the ‘Paraclete’ to his disciples, (‘Paraclete’ literally means ‘alongside of’). Its secondary meaning has to do with speaking, exhorting, begging, consoling, encouraging, instructing. In John, the Paraclete witnesses(15:6), teaches(14:26), encourages(16:6), guides(16:13) and proves wrong (16:8-11).

Notice Jesus says, “I will give you another Paraclete.” Jesus is the first one. The Paraclete is the “Spirit of Truth” who will remind the Apostles what Jesus taught, and help them to understand what he taught. In various situations, the Spirit will help Jesus’ disciples in different ways, e.g., if a disciple is in court, the Spirit will act as his inner defense attorney. In dealing with the world, the Spirit will act as his prosecutor.

The Spirit is the very presence of Jesus within us. Jesus has not orphaned us; rather, he is within us in a new way. The Spirit is a new presence of Jesus. The Spirit is our companion playing different roles at different times. For example, when we are sad, he is our comfort; when we are confused, he will guide us. This Spirit cannot be recognized without eyes of faith or without a heart of love. If we lack these qualities, the presence of the Holy Spirit will remain concealed from us. True knowledge of Jesus is always linked to loving Jesus.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Additional Reading

Fr. Clement D. Thiboddeau (Portland Diocese)

To love God is to obey God

GOSPEL— The key to understanding this part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse can be found in this perspective: It is really about the Church, the community of faith, within whichJesus is truly present and within which he acts in pursuit of the same goals he had in his earthly life. This is no mere abstraction! Very concretely, Jesus has come again already! He is at work from within the lives and ministries of the disciples. Remember, in John’s Gospel,the Second Coming has already occurred, in the giving of the Spirit to those who believe. The Spirit given is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, making Christ present in the work of the Church. From this point of view, we are not to wait foranother coming of Jesus. He is already here. Now isthe time to utilize his presence in the works we are to do.

John presents three kinds of presences of Jesus in the life of the community. These three are not particularly separated and differentiatedfrom one another. They are three aspects of the same presence. 1. God will send an advocate, or helper, through whom the works of Jesus will continue to be done in the works of the Church. Jesus will be present in his works. 2. Jesus will come invisibly to the lives of the disciples. The unbelievers may not see him in them, but they will surely know that he is there through the powers they experience as they do the works he has sent them to do. 3. The presence of Jesus is really the presence of God the Father since these two cannot be separated. They have an identity of function. They do the same works. Therefore, they are one.

Love of God motivates us to obey God. It is no burden to conform our behaviors to the will of the God we love. God does not coerce us to do what we are reluctant to do. Eagerness drives our efforts to line ourselves up with the one we love. There can be no greater energy in us than the divine energy which is the Spirit of Jesus urging us to obey God.

The proof that we love God is that we obey the teachings of Jesus Christ. To obey Jesus does not go against the grain when we are filled with the Spirit of Jesus. In the prayer of the community (sacraments) and in our personal prayer, we renew this outpouring of the divine Spiritwithin us. We open ourselves up to the impact of the Holy Spirit so that we can more readily respond to its urgings and its inspirations.

The presence of a loved one, close by in times of trouble, is the most reassuring sign of comfort and of support.One of our greatest fears is that we should be alone. Our hearts yearn forcompanionship and love. Jesus’ disciples grew more and more alarmed as they sensed that he would not be with them long. A kind of foreboding comes over them as they begin to understand that he will be taken from them. They fear losing him, but they fear especially having to live without him. How can they possiblygo on if he is not with them? He is the representative of the Father among them. When he is gone, the Father will be gone. They will be “orphaned”so to speak.

The abiding presence of Christ in our lives, in the life of the Church, is the most urgent reality if we are to survive as his faithful disciples. We cannot go through the pains and struggles of daily existencewithout his power and his comfort to sustain us. With him at our side, with Jesus as our constant companion, there is nothing we cannot endure. That is the kind of assurance that Jesus wanted to give his followers: that he would notleave them. In the Holy Spirit,he can still be with them to empower them and to hold them up. Their courage will come from the felt presence of that Spirit within them, in their ministry, in their fellowship. They will not be left alone. Neither are we. The Spirit of Jesus Christ continues to abide with us in very real ways.

© 2017Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Mary M. McGlone (National Catholic Reporter)

Seeing and knowing the Spirit

EXCERPT—Jesus promised the disciples he would ask the Father to send them “another advocate,” the Spirit who would continue his role with them. Jesus described this Spirit as the Spirit of truth whom the world neither sees nor knows. The clear implication is that disciples do somehow see and know the Spirit.

To “see” implies a sense perception. Seeing is more than passive. “Seeing” involves taking in sensory data and organizing it, focusing on some things and ignoring others to give meaning to the light and shade and varied shapes within our range of vision. “Knowing” is non-material, it refers to the dimension of the mind and the spiritual. To know someone is not just to recognize a face or to be able to call her or him by name. Knowing involves relationship. To know others is to be connected with them. It implies that we understand the person from his or her own perspective. Knowing someone necessarily implies a degree of empathy, of feeling together. When Jesus states that disciples see and know the Spirit it’s simply one more way of drawing out the implications of their love for him. To the degree that they love him, they see as he sees and want his Spirit to animate them, to help them remain true to who he is calling them to be.

The role of the Spirit in the life of disciples is expressed quite beautifully in Eucharistic Prayer 4 which says: “That we might live no longer for ourselves but for him … he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.”

© 2017 NCR Online. All rights reserved.

Further Study

The eternal presence of God the Holy Spirit

In our Gospel Reading from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, He told His disciples that He would not remain visibly among them. However, He assured them He would be with them through the mission of the Holy Spirit, who He would send to be their Advocate, Counselor, and Defender. Jesus identifies God the Holy Spirit as a person and not merely a force. He refers to the Holy Spirit using the masculine pronoun “He,” and uses three prepositions in the Greek text to describe the Spirit’s relationship to the believer. Jesus said He will be “with you always,” He “remains with/by you,” and “will be in you,” meaning dwelling within you. Jesus assures every believer that God the Holy Spirit will be “with you” as your companion in fellowship, “by you” in His position as your advocate and counselor, and “in you” as the indwelling personal God who is your source of supernatural life.

Old Testament understanding of spirit

The “other” Advocate Jesus promised to send is God the Holy Spirit, who is, for the first time, revealed as the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  The Old Covenant people did not have the revelation of the Trinitarian nature of God.  In Hebrew, the word ruah/ruach means wind, breath, air, or soul/spirit, and in Scripture is often expressed as the “spirit” or “divine wind” of God (i.e., Gen 1:2).  Ruah can denote human breath (the air humans breathe to stay alive that is a sign of life, or the absence of which indicates death).  However, the use of this word in association with Yahweh is the very breath or spirit that comes forth from the “mouth” of the Living God (Gen 2:7) that is His living power (see Ps 33:6).  It is the “breath of God” that inspired the holy prophets and received by the Davidic kings of Israel at their coronation as Yahweh’s anointed (Is 11:2).  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament and New Testament, the Hebrew word ruah is usually translated by the Greek word pneuma and used to identify the God the Holy Spirit, who Jesus calls the Comforter and Advocate (Paraclete).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The word Paraclete

The word “Paraclete” is an anglicized transliteration of the Greek word parakletos, a term only found five times in Sacred Scripture, and only in St. John’s Gospel and in St. John’s First Epistle (see Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; and 1 Jn 2:1).  The word parakletos can have various meanings.  It can mean advocate, intercessor, counselor, protector, or supporter.  The literal Greek entomology is from para  = “to the side of” and kaleo = “to summon.”  Therefore, the word means “to be called to someone’s side to accompany, console, protect and defend that person.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The procession of the Holy Trinity

In this passage, Jesus says: 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Paraclete/ parakletos] to be with you always…  In John 15:26, Jesus will continue telling the Apostles of the coming of the Holy Spirit when He says, “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.”  Then in John 16:7c, Jesus will reassure the Apostles: I will send him (the Holy Spirit) to you,” and after the Resurrection, the glorified Jesus, God the Son, will breathe on the Apostles in the Upper Room and will say “Receive the Holy Spirit” (see Jn 20:22).

These passages do not contradict each other; they establish the procession of the Most Holy Trinity as we affirm in the Nicene Creed.  But why does Jesus speak of God the Holy Spirit as “another advocate” in John 14:16?  The Church will receive the Holy Spirit in Christ’s place as Advocate, Defender, and Teacher because Jesus will ascend to Heaven to take His place with the Father.  But the Advocate the Father will send is not different from Christ; instead, He is another similar to Himself (see Mt 6:24).  He will send the Spirit after His Ascension in Acts chapter 2 on Pentecost Sunday when God the Holy Spirit will fill and indwell the Church.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Spirit of Truth

In John 14:16-17, Jesus gives the Holy Spirit the title “the Spirit of Truth.”  In verse 17, John makes a grammatical error that may be bad Greek but is good Christian theology.  The Greek word for wind or spirit is pneuma.  In the Greek language, it is neuter and does not take the masculine pronoun John gives it, but this is good Christian theology.  God the Holy Spirit is a person and not merely a force.  John identifies the Holy Spirit as “he” three times in verse 16.   The Greek text also uses three prepositions in verses 16-17 to describe the Spirit’s relationship to the believer (in bold type in the quotation): 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Paraclete/ parakletos] to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.  But you know him, because he remains with [by] you, and will be in you.  Jesus assures every believer that the Third Person (He) of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit:

  • will be “with you” as your companion in fellowship,
  • “by you” in His position as your advocate and counselor, and
  •  “in you” as the indwelling personal God who is your source of supernatural life.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus remains with his disciples in every generation

When Jesus ascended to the Father, He promised that the disciples would continue to have Him with them.  Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains with His disciples in every generation.  He is with us in the miracle of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments and whenever we call upon Him in prayer, fulfilling the promise He made when He said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).  This promise is for all believers who walk in Jesus’ footsteps throughout their earthly life, and we have His assurance that we will see Him at the end of our faith journey.  At our individual/particular judgment, He will stand beside us as our Advocate (CCC 1021-22).  We can also be confident that we will be with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven if we persevere in faith (CCC 1023, 1026).  St. Paul assured faithful Christians: If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him (Rom 6:8).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Reflection Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?

2. In the first reading, Peter’s congregation is “cut to the heart” as they hear him preach. Has this kind of conviction or spiritual awakening ever happened to you as a result of a homily or as a result of some other event in your life?

3. What are forms of slavery (second reading) in our world today? What if anything, can we do to oppose slavery?

4. What are traits of a good shepherd? How can you be a good shepherd to others?5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Questions for Discussion

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

1. Do you sometimes have a sense that Jesus is very close, at your very side, in your heart of hearts, as you go through the experiences of life? When is this most real for you? When you are experiencing pain? Or when you are experiencing joy? Do you feel the presence of Christ being with you when you are with someone you love?

2. Has Jesus kept his promise to you not to leave you orphaned? In what ways have you known that the promise was kept? Can you give testimony to others that Jesus never abandons those whom he loves? From your own personal experience, can you relate a story of the comfort and power which Jesus has brought to your life?

3. In what sense is Jesus still present in the Church community? Share your faith in the abiding presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in other sacraments, in the Scriptures, in the gatherings of the community itself.

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Call to Action

Try to be more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit within you. In preparation for the Feast of Pentecost, consider making a Novena to the Holy Spirit beginning this Friday.

Shared Prayer

Holy Spirit, help me to be more aware and responsive to your promptings in my daily life.

Closing Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen. (St. Augustine)

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Introduction to 6th Sunday of Easter readings

EXCERPT — Depending upon where we live, many of us are unaware of those who actually suffer because of their faith. But many circumstances can challenge our commitment: politics, economic choices, job decisions, or lifestyle. Like the early Christians, we are promised the guiding presence of the Spirit. How prepared are we to suffer for or at least be uncomfortable with living the Gospel? How open are we to the Spirit’s influence in our lives?

PENITENTIAL ACT

Lord Jesus, you call us to keep your commandments: Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you promised to send us the Spirit as our advocate: Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you do not leave us alone in our commitment to you: Lord, have mercy.

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


God is with us forever

EXCERPT – God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. It is only when we know this truth that we can be people of hope. For what is hope? Hope is to believe that there is something beyond our strength and our cleverness and our abilities. Even though we are always called to use our strength and cleverness and abilities, when they fail us, hope can continue. There is something beyond ourselves which is close to us: the presence of God. Because of that presence, we can hope even when we lose our job, even when we discover that our son is abusing drugs, even when our marriage fails, even when we are handed a frightening diagnosis from the doctor, even when we hurt someone we love, even when death is on the horizon.

RELATED HOMILIES BY FR. SIGMA: Listening to the Holy Spirit, A name for the Holy Spirit

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


Symbols of the Holy Spirit

EXCERPT – Since the Holy Spirit, by its very nature, has no bodily form, the Church uses several different symbols to represent the Spirit: Water, Anointing, Fire, Cloud and Light, Seal, Hand, Finger, Dove.

Water: Inthe waters of baptism, the Spirit of God engenders new life in us. Just as our earthly birth is associated with “breaking of water,” so is our spiritual rebirth in the waters of the baptismal font. All life comes from water, even in the natural order. The water that flowed from the side of Christ on the cross represents the new life won for sinners by his death.

Anointing: With chrism, at baptism and in confirmation, the Holy Spirit is represented as given to the believer. Jesus himself was “anointed with the Holy Spirit”as manifested at his baptism. Thus, his title of Messiah, a Hebrew word which means “Christ” or “anointed by God” in the Greek language. Jesus came to be born of the Virgin Mary by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, so that at his birth the angel could proclaim him as “Christ” or “the Anointed One.”This anointing continues in the life of the Church where the full measure of Christ is achieved. (READ MORE)

Echoing God’s WordSRev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)


What does Jesus mean, “I will not leave you orphans”

EXCERPT – Never forget that the Holy Spirit dwells within you, not far away in some cosmic location! Baptism and Confirmation bring the fullness of the Holy Spirit into your life – the same effect as if Jesus were walking with you and living in your house! That is a tremendous consolation, knowing we can call upon the Spirit of God within us in our time of need – which is every day of our lives. The Father sends us the Holy Spirit because Jesus asks Him to do so; this Spirit is the Advocate – “he who is called to one’s side” – always there to lead us to all Truth (CCC #692). The gift of the Spirit imparted by the Sacrament of Confirmation perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church (CCC #1288).

MASS HOMILIESDeacon Joseph Pasquella (Confraternity of Penitents)


We have the Holy Spirit, even if we can’t receive the sacraments

EXCERPT — n a time of social distancing, the reception of sacraments has been limited or delayed. Because physical, sacramental rituals are an important way to express faith and connection with God and one another, the absence of them can lead to a feeling of abandonment, similar to that of the apostles in the Gospel. How can people receive the Spirit without baptism and confirmation? How can we have God within us without regularly receiving the Eucharist? Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is not constrained in the same ways we are. Sacraments connect us to God’s grace in concrete and visible ways, but they are not the only vehicles for grace. Remember that when Jesus promises the Spirit, he does not limit it to baptism or laying on hands. The Spirit is promised freely as an advocate (Gk. paraclete), a defender and a comforter, who resides within the community whose members love one another.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


Keep my commandments

EXCERPT — Now we meet an important expression of Jesus, repeated twice: “keep my commandments”. This is an important and fundamental fact, because the authenticity of my love relationship with the Lord depends on it; if I do not keep his commandments, then I do not love him. But I try to ask myself more carefully what does the verb “keep” mean, which looks so cold, so distant. I find it for instance in Mt 27: 36, where we read that the soldiers kept watch over the crucified Jesus; it is then a matter of close and scrupulous watching, an untiring watchfulness. On the other hand in Jn 2: 10, it appears with the meaning of keeping in store, reserving, as Jesus says of the good wine kept until last. 2 Timothy 4: 7 uses the verb in that wonderful verse on faith: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”. This emphasizes the effort, the great care used to safeguard and watch over that precious thing, faith. In Jn 17: 15, Jesus prays the Father to keep his own from the evil one, that is to preserve, protect, so that nothing and no one would harm or disperse them. This is not simply a cold and external keeping of the commandments of God or of Jesus, but much more; this is a relationship of love, a being careful, protecting, keeping in life. Fundamentally it is realizing that which I am told or asked, in my day to day life, every moment and in every situation.

THE ORDER OF CARMELITESLectio Divina: Sundays of Lent


Trusting in the slow work of God

EXCERPT — “The Jesuit paleontologist Fr. Teilhard de Chardin might call our genetic heritage the raw material with which we begin. In a letter to a young friend, Teilhard left us counsel about exercising patience in the process of becoming who we really are and can be. He said, “We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown … and yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability — and that it may take a very long time.” Teilhard’s advice offers us a way to think about Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel. We are still at the table of the Last Supper and Jesus is explaining that soon his followers will not know him in the flesh as they had until the time of his passion. This is a hard transition, their time of instability. Of course, they don’t want to let go of what they have, much less face what he has told them is coming. But he promises that he won’t leave them as orphans.” …Teilhard counsels us, “Trust in the slow work of God.” We cannot force what grace and a bazillion serendipitous events acting on our goodwill will make of us tomorrow. We can only trust that they will transform us and our whole world.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTERMary M. McGlone, CSJ


Baptism in the Spirit

EXCERPT — As for those young people who might leave us, the last chapter is not yet written for their lives. Just as our church itself has a long and winding history, so do the great majority of its communicants. Through it all, what is most important is that the believer, as well as the believing community, pass on to its young the great truth that Jesus Christ has saved us. Such is the ground of our faith and hope as well as of all the Spirit’s gifts. That is why it is only into God’s hands that we entrust our lives—and the lives of those we love.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ

THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS

Visit Doctrinal Homily Outlines for further commentary and catechetical connections.

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”

From the Homiletic Directory
CCC 2746-2751: Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper
CCC 243, 388, 692, 729, 1433, 1848: the Holy Spirit as Advocate/Consoler
CCC 1083, 2670-2672: invoking the Holy Spirit

Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper

2746 When “his hour” came, Jesus prayed to the Father.43 His prayer, the longest transmitted by the Gospel, embraces the whole economy of creation and salvation, as well as his death and Resurrection. The prayer of the Hour of Jesus always remains his own, just as his Passover “once for all” remains ever present in the liturgy of his Church.

2747 Christian Tradition rightly calls this prayer the “priestly” prayer of Jesus. It is the prayer of our high priest, inseparable from his sacrifice, from his passing over (Passover) to the Father to whom he is wholly “consecrated.”44

2748 In this Paschal and sacrificial prayer, everything is recapitulated in Christ:45 God and the world; the Word and the flesh; eternal life and time; the love that hands itself over and the sin that betrays it; the disciples present and those who will believe in him by their word; humiliation and glory. It is the prayer of unity.

2749 Jesus fulfilled the work of the Father completely; his prayer, like his sacrifice, extends until the end of time. The prayer of this hour fills the end-times and carries them toward their consummation. Jesus, the Son to whom the Father has given all things, has given himself wholly back to the Father, yet expresses himself with a sovereign freedom46 by virtue of the power the Father has given him over all flesh. The Son, who made himself Servant, is Lord, the Pantocrator. Our high priest who prays for us is also the one who prays in us and the God who hears our prayer.

2750 By entering into the holy name of the Lord Jesus we can accept, from within, the prayer he teaches us: “Our Father!” His priestly prayer fulfills, from within, the great petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: concern for the Father’s name;47 passionate zeal for his kingdom (glory);48 the accomplishment of the will of the Father, of his plan of salvation;49 and deliverance from evil.50

2751 Finally, in this prayer Jesus reveals and gives to us the “knowledge,” inseparably one, of the Father and of the Son,51 which is the very mystery of the life of prayer.

The Holy Spirit as Advocate/Consoler

The Father and the Son revealed by the Spirit

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”.68 The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.

Original sin – an essential truth of the faith

388 With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story’s ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.261 We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to “convict the world concerning sin”,262 by revealing him who is its Redeemer.

Titles of the Holy Spirit

692 When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”20

Christ Jesus

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.116 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.

Interior Penance

1433 Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved “the world wrong about sin,”29 i.e., proved that the world has not believed in him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.30

Mercy and Sin

1848 As St. Paul affirms, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”118 But to do its work grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts and bestow on us “righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”119 Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God, by his Word and by his Spirit, casts a living light on sin:

Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgment of conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man’s inmost being, becomes at the same time the start of a new grant of grace and love: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Thus in this “convincing concerning sin” we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is the Consoler.120

Invoking the Holy Spirit

1083 The dual dimension of the Christian liturgy as a response of faith and love to the spiritual blessings the Father bestows on us is thus evident. On the one hand, the Church, united with her Lord and “in the Holy Spirit,”5 blesses the Father “for his inexpressible gift6 in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. On the other hand, until the consummation of God’s plan, the Church never ceases to present to the Father the offering of his own gifts and to beg him to send the Holy Spirit upon that offering, upon herself, upon the faithful, and upon the whole world, so that through communion in the death and resurrection of Christ the Priest, and by the power of the Spirit, these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life “to the praise of his glorious grace.”7

“Come, Holy Spirit”

2670 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”21 Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.

If the Spirit should not be worshiped, how can he divinize me through Baptism? If he should be worshiped, should he not be the object of adoration?22

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.23 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.24 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.25Heavenly 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.26

2672 The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.


SOURCES/CREDITS:
Fr. Tobin Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout. Images, videos, scripture verses, and other material which accompany Fr. Tobin’s text are curated by LectioTube.com. They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
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