21 May 2017: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 8:5-8, 14-17  Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20  1 Pt 3:15-18  Jn 14:15-21


The resurrected life: remaining-in-relationship through the Spirit

White_gold_banner_sm Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings invite us to consider how the Spirit helps us to love one another and to remain-in-relationship.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes Philip’s mission to the Samaritans. Philip reports to the Jerusalem ekklesia that Samaria had accepted the Word, but Luke explains that the Samaritans had not yet received the Spirit. Only when Peter and John come to the Samaritans does the Spirit enliven the Samaritan community. The story teaches that the gentile missions and their believing communities must remain in fellowship (or koinónia) with the Jerusalem ekklesia.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author notes that Christians must show patience, even when being harassed unjustly. In the late first century, Christians suffered from social alienation more than from persecution. Christian beliefs did not permit disciples to join in Roman social, religious, or civic activities. Christians’ non-participation engender suspicion and resentment in their non-Christian neighbors, resulting in suffering.

In John’s gospel, Jesus continues his final discourse with his disciples at the Last Supper. John uses a circular or spiral narrative form that allows Jesus to introduce and connect several ideas, including obedience as love, the coming of another paraclete, remaining-in-relationship (abiding), the world’s blindness, love of Jesus and the Father, and eternal life. This reflection examines two of Jesus’ ideas:

  • Love. John uses the Greek word ἀγαπάω (ag-ah-PAH-oh) to describe Jesus’ love or personal engagement with his disciples. True love shows itself in words and actions. ἀγαπάω is not an abstract idea, but an action that means “to express or practice care or interest in and for another.” Jesus’ command to love isn’t a greeting card sentiment or a soft-focus Instagram of puppies. Jesus’ law of love is a high-resolution, action movie about seeing and healing the physically and mentally ill, advocating and protecting the defenseless, washing others’ dirty feet, and dying on a cross. Jesus calls disciples to a higher standard of love: “I give you a new commandment: love [ἀγαπάω] one another (Jn 13:34).”
  • The Paraclete. The Greek word παράκλητος (pah-rah-KLAY-tos), translated as “paraclete,” “advocate,” “intercessor,” or “supporter,” means “someone called to another’s side.” In Greek and Roman courts, a παράκλητος assisted a person during a trial–giving counsel, pleading that person’s cause, or interceding with the judge. The “other paraclete” continues Jesus’ mission to reveal God’s love to the world. God’s own Spirit helps a disciple remain-in-relationship with Jesus and the Father. Filled with the Spirit, each disciple embodies God’s love and, in obedience to Jesus’ law of love, reveals God’s love in his or her own words and actions.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event. Jesus reveals himself in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the Lord. The readings remind us that we are part of a believing community, with responsibilities to the larger world. How seriously do we take Jesus’ command to love one another? Do we just “think nice thoughts” about people, or do we speak out for the voiceless and act with love to bring justice?

—Terence Sherlock

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