Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 25)

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus tells his disciples as he prepares for his return to the Father. Jesus has spent three years with his disciples and apostles building a relationship on love. He teaches them through his words and actions but also through the regular interactions with the disciples by which their relationship is developed. They come to know him and love him as he loves them.

Jesus speaks to them of his departure. He will leave them, but this will not end the relationship; in fact, quite the opposite, his presence with them will actually be even more intimate and the relationship will grow stronger through the presence of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of his departure, he tells the disciples: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

Moving toward the end of the Easter season we first celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on Thursday, May 29, then the following Sunday is the celebration of Pentecost. These two weeks provide an opportunity to reflect on and grow in appreciation for Jesus’ abiding presence among us through the Holy Spirit.

The first reading for today’s Mass recalls the mission to Samaria. Coming from Chapter 8 in Acts of the Apostles, the apostles and disciples have already received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. You may recall in the beginning of Acts of the Apostles the disciples were many times full of fear. They were hiding for fear after what had happened to Jesus in his passion and death.

Even though they are witnesses of his resurrection and find peace through this witness, they are timid in proclamation. Yet this quickly changes when the Holy Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost. At once they are filled with great courage and begin to proclaim the resurrection of the Lord.

Also recall that Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast which is suddenly transformed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. All these people hear the one proclamation though they speak many languages. The apostles and followers of Jesus now begin to move out from Jerusalem proclaiming the Gospel. Phillip brings the message to Samaria.

As Philip proclaims Christ to the Samaritans they listen intently. They are amazed by what he teaches and the great healing that occurs through his ministry. The ministry of Philip carries on the ministry of Jesus.

Remember the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry at the synagogue in Nazareth. He reads from the Isaiah scroll: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Philip, now filled with the Spirit, continues this mission of Jesus. And St. Luke, author of Acts of the Apostles, tells us that the proclamation of the Gospel in Samaria resulted in “great joy in that city.”

While the Samaritans came to faith and “accepted the word of God,” they had not yet received the Holy Spirit for they were baptized only “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” So the apostles send Peter and John to “lay hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” With the presence of the Holy Spirit they are now able to live the Christian life and to proclaim the resurrection.

Jesus does not leave us orphans, quite the contrary. He lives in us and abides with us and through the Spirit he continues his mission in us. The proclamation of the “Christ” continues today. The psalmist calls us to “shout joyfully to God” both in thanksgiving but also in praise. This is a proclamation of God’s goodness, his love and mercy. This is a proclamation of Christ.

The First Letter of Peter encourages the same with these words: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope….” The reason for hope, the reason for joy, is that Jesus is risen from the dead and is with us. God’s love and mercy are triumphant over sin and death. Those things that keep us away from God are deemed powerless with the victory of Christ through his passion, death and resurrection.

Our celebration today is not of Pentecost but Easter. However, as we move toward Pentecost we are being prepared for a renewal in Spirit. Jesus abides with us. We are never alone. The renewal we seek is one that will allow us to recognize the Spirit in our lives and to have our lives animated by his presence.

Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The greatest commandment is to love. Jesus shows us that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives helps us to live the commandment of love and all others that flow from it.

Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus continues to live with us through the Holy Spirit. He is the consoling Spirit, the advocate who pleads our cause, the counselor who offers wisdom, the voice that speaks truth. Jesus speaks to us through the Holy Spirit drawing us ever deeper into his love. As we move toward Pentecost we pray for a greater awareness of his presence, a greater awareness of his love.