6th Sunday of Easter
The Acts of the Apostles once again this Easter season furnishes the first reading. In the readings of the weekends earlier in this season, the identity of the Apostles has clearly been given.
The Apostles, absent Judas of course, had exercised the very power of Jesus in naming a new member of their group, Matthias, who succeeded the dead Judas. Peter healed the sick. In behalf of the Apostles, Peter spoke as Jesus had spoken.
It was not just simply that the Apostles had been with Jesus as specially selected students and followers, but they discharged the divine power that had belonged to Jesus, and they continued the mission of Jesus the Redeemer.
In this reading, announcement of this identity continues. While Acts already has clearly established that Peter was the head of the Apostles, the character of Apostleship belonged not just to him. It was also with the others.
Thus, in this reading, the central figures are Philip and John. They performed miracles, as Jesus had performed miracles.
However, they were not on their own. They were part of the community of believers in Jerusalem, that had Peter as its head, and around Peter were the other Apostles.
This group of Apostles in Jerusalem sent Philip and John to Samaria. So the Apostles together had authority, and each within the group recognized this authority. They looked to the salvation of all people, even of Samaritans, who were so despised by the Jews. Finally, they bore within themselves the Holy Spirit, and they could give the Holy Spirit to others.
The second reading is from the First Epistle of Peter. This reading is a strong, joyful and enthusiastic proclamation of Jesus as Lord. It calls believers to hear the Lord and to follow the Lord. The Lord should be in their hearts and minds.
St. John’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. Not a Resurrection Narrative, it nonetheless serves the Church’s purpose as it teaches us this weekend. After celebrating the Resurrection for these weeks since Easter, the Church gently is summoning us to look at our lives.
This reading is our blueprint for life. Our task as disciples is to love others as Jesus loved all. It is clear. In God’s love, given to us in the Lord, is our salvation.
Indeed, the very act of giving us a blueprint for living is a vitally important gift given in love to us by God.
The next major liturgical event for us will be the celebration of the feast of the Ascension of Jesus. Soon after this feast, we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost. Within sight now is the close of the Easter season.
For these weeks the Church has informed us of the Resurrection of Jesus, gloriously occurring after the dreadful events of Good Friday. It has shared with us its joy, copying the joy of the first Christians. It has told us again and again of the Risen Lord’s appearances and admonitions.
Gently, gradually, but definitely the Church has begun the process of leading us to ask what the Resurrection truly means for each of us individually. It is an anniversary — or for each of us a personal experience?
The Church reassures us. Contact with Jesus was not lost with the Ascension, when Jesus returned to the Father. Contact remains, and it remains very clearly in the visible, institutional Church. The Church stands on the Apostles. It offers us the service of the modern successors of Peter and the other Apostles.
Through them we still hear the words of Christ. In the sacraments they give us, we still access the power of Christ’s eternal life.
Finally, in the splendid reading from John’s Gospel, the Church tells us how to live. We must love others.
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