Sixth 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 clearly has been established.
In a critically important revelation, the apostles exercised the very power of Jesus in naming a new member of their group, Matthias, to succeed the dead Judas. With power held by Jesus, Peter healed the sick. On behalf of the apostles, Peter spoke as Jesus had spoken.
Clearly, the apostles discharged the divine power that had belonged to Jesus, and they continued the mission of Jesus the Redeemer. They had been the Lord’s specially selected students and companions, but in Acts they possessed a unique role themselves.
Through them, the Lord continued the mission of salvation. They bore within themselves the Holy Spirit, and they gave the Holy Spirit to others.
While Acts already has established that Peter was the head of the apostles, the character of apostle 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, having been sent by the apostles to Samaria. Their destination reveals much. They looked to the salvation of all people, even of Samaritans, whom Jews so despised. No one was beyond the scope of salvation in Jesus. No one was inherently bad, beyond redemption.
The second reading is from the First Epistle of Peter. It is a strong, joyful and enthusiastic proclamation of Jesus as Lord, calling believers to hear the Lord and to follow the Lord. The Lord should be in their hearts and minds.
St. John’s Gospel is the source of 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 in these our times, occurring with circumstances particular to us and to our time.
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 enthusiastically has proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, gloriously occurring after the dreadful events of Good Friday. It has shared with us its joy, echoing the joy of the first Christians. It has told us again and again of the risen Lord’s appearances and admonitions.
The message is very strongly catechetical. Contact with Jesus was not lost with the ascension, when Jesus returned to the Father. Contact with the Lord remains very clearly in the visible, institutional church. The church offers us the service of the modern successors of Peter and the other apostles. He lives!
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. We commune with Jesus.
Finally, in the reading from John’s Gospel, the church tells us how to live. We must love others.
Gently, gradually, but definitely, the church has entered, and pursued, the process of leading us to ask what the Resurrection deeply and really means for each of us individually.
Remaining for us is the obvious question. Are we willing to accept the risen Lord?
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