Tuesday, May 20, 2014

6th Sunday of Easter 2014

If you want to have some fun, ask a Catholic (or any Christian) about the Holy Spirit.  The answers you get will likely be as varied as the people you ask.  Our faith is based on a “Trinitarian” view of God:  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  As a Church we do quite well teaching about God the Father, and we do an excellent job teaching about Jesus, but when it comes to the Holy Spirit we tend to treat the subject like a “third wheel” or “odd man out.”  We spend so much time learning about God the Father and God the Son that we end up with little time to spend on the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps our readings for this week can help us to better understand the Spirit…

The Word for the 6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

For this 6th Sunday of Easter we open with a story from Acts of the Apostles where we hear how Philip has had great success in bringing the Gospel to the people of Samaria.  Even amid this great joy, Peter and John were concerned that the Holy Spirit had not yet come to them, so they travel to Samaria and lay hands on them.  Many Christians (and indeed many Catholics) wonder why we celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation separately, but that tradition has its basis in this reading, and the the joy in these experiences is echoed by our Psalm.

Our second reading continues our study of 1st Peter, where we are asked to be ready to explain our reason for hope.  It’s easy for us to forget sometimes that life for these first Christians was very difficult.  Whether Jews or Gentiles, they were outcasts, both religiously and politically.  No longer part of the temples from which they were raised, and no longer in control of the countries in which they were born.  Yet even with this suffering and persecution, these people are hopeful.  Peter reminds them that even in the midst of suffering, there is life in the Spirit.

This theme of the Spirit continues in our Gospel from John.  Continuing from where we left off last week with the Last Supper Discourses, Jesus is teaching the Apostles about The Advocate… The Spirit of truth… the Holy Spirit.  This piece of God, this piece of himself, that will be with them always.  Last week we heard Jesus teaching the Apostles about how he and God are like one.  But Jesus is also telling them that his time on this earth is about to come to an end, so it begs the question of the Apostles… how do we continue to see God if you are gone?  This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  That essence of God within us, around us, and working through us.  The words of the Nicene Creed reflect this natural progression and understanding:
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life
Who proceeds from the Father and Son
Who with the Father and the Son he is adored and glorified
Who has spoken through the Prophets
In Latin, Spiritus Sanctus, is literally translated as “breath, life force, or soul”.  Sometimes I think our teaching on the Holy Spirit is elusive because the very nature of the Sprit itself is elusive.  The Spirit is our connection to God the Father and God the Son, and in an integral, consubstantial part of the Trinity.  It is one with God, yet as individual as those whom it works through.  To paraphrase from popular culture, “it surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the Church together.”  It is only fitting then that the Spirit be uniquely recognized through the Sacrament of Confirmation… a celebration that is still easily recognizable from our readings for this Sunday. 

Catholic Update
How the Spirit Guides the Church:  Two Views In Matthew and John
Confirmation:  A Deepening of Our Christian Identity

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