28 May 2011

Dominica Sexta Paschæ

First Reading, Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
You may recall from last weekend's First Reading that Philip is one of the newly ordained deacons. Preaching to the city of Samaria is a further advancement towards the goal of the Church becoming universal. And the text indicates that miraculous events were occurring through the hands of Philip. Peter and John laid hands on the people of Samaria and they received the Holy Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: "Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ Who, as the Head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among His members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to His Self-offering to the Father and to His intercession for the whole world. Through the Church's sacraments, Christ communicates His Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of His Body" (CCC 739). Philip had the advantage of the Samaritans having already been somewhat evangelized by the woman at the well after her life altering conversation with Jesus (cf. John 4:5-42). That Gospel passage concludes by pointing out that many of the Samaritans had come to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. One probable obstacle to overcome was the Samaritan belief that God was to be adored on the mountain of Gerizim while Jews worshipped at Jerusalem (cf. John 4:20). It is not known at the time of Philip's visit if that barrier had yet been torn down. Certainly, if not then, at least eventually the house of universality would begin to be built brick by brick whereby Christians would comply to our Lord's plan of worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth with location being irrelevant (cf. John 4:23). This is quite a miraculous turn of events when considering the previous protocol was that "Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans" (John 4:9). Jesus began this good work and His example was continued – and is to be continued.

Second Reading, 1 Peter 3:15-18
Human beings do not sit in a classroom to be taught how to love. Love is instinctive because the Law of God, which is His Love, is written on every human heart. At the heart of every human struggle, however, is the human heart. The inner demons try to erase that which has been written by the Finger of God. The ways of God are perfectly harmonious. Angelic choirs resound from the human heart: "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). But in moments of weakness comes a voice a bit out of tune: "All these things I will give you. . . " (Matthew 4:9). This is the temptation to lust after this world's goods -- it is the cornerstone of a secular society. And perhaps what makes humanity succumb to it is that in our brokenness, what is laid before us is often more attractive to the senses than that which has not even entered the heart of man – that which God has prepared for those who love Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9). Saint Peter commands us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. With every command is the option to disobey because humanity has been granted the gift of free will. Humanity's free will, indeed, has the power to make Jesus Lord of the heart. And to do so is the only way to fight off that mysterious, alluring whisper which tells us that we are capable by ourselves of being like gods (cf. Genesis 3:5). Nothing can explain the reason for hope more fervently than lives being lived in holiness by those who genuinely bear the Christian name, those who sanctify Christ as Lord in their heart. In Saint Matthew's Gospel our Savior teaches: "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake; for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they shall revile you and persecute you and speak all that is evil against you untruly, for My sake; rejoice and be exceeding glad, for your reward is very great in heaven" (Matthew 5:10-12). Our Lord's Passion is a reminder of the inevitability of our own sufferings and eventual death; His Resurrection is our hope for a new and eternal life in which there is cause for rejoicing here and now -- and forever.

Gospel, John 14:15-21
The connection between love for the Lord and obeying His Commandments is not a new concept from Jesus. In the Old Testament God promises mercy unto many thousands who love Him and keep His Commandments (cf. Deuteronomy 5:10). There is, however, a distinction that perhaps can be made: Jesus taught that loving God and loving neighbor are the greatest Commandments; and the whole Law and the Prophets are dependent upon those two Commandments (cf. Matthew 22:36-40). Love, then, is the fulfillment of the Law. All of the "You shall not" warnings in the Ten Commandments deal with either a mistreatment of God or of our fellow human beings; and, of course, abusive behavior is incompatible with love. But in a mysterious way, since God became Man in the Person of Jesus Christ, the compatibility of God and man and their relationship to the Law is now very intimately fused. Jesus offers us an "Advocate". The Greek text uses the word "Parakletos" and the Latin Vulgate defines the Advocate with the word "Paraclitum". Most likely these two ancient words draw you to the word "Paraclete". It has also been translated as: Comforter, Intercessor, Teacher, or Helper. For the Church, the Advocate inwardly keeps the external teachings of Jesus engraved in her heart and soul and guarantees her infallibility. The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit on individuals is not limited strictly in meaning to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. The soul is renewed by grace and thus becomes a dwelling-place for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Thomas Aquinas describes the union of the Advocate with the soul as a mystical union which varies in degree. The Advocate's consolation of the soul includes assistance, advice, protection, intercession, and everything to promote the growth of holiness welling up to eternal life. In this Gospel, the mission of the Advocate appears to be that of an Abider with the apostles after the visible Presence of Jesus ascends to heaven. Our love for the Son draws the Father's love, as well as the Son's response to our love which is perceived by our faith which comes from the Holy Spirit's Indwelling. Consider and reflect upon the remarkable work done by the apostles after the Ascension – and then understand that by living a sacramental life which manifests our love for God and neighbor, promotes that same Power within each of us to be effective and holy disciples.