Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:15-18
Beloved: 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, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
Love! So often all of us think of love as a feeling rather than a decision to make another person more important than we are in our daily lives. Love is when we decide that the good of another person is more important than our own good. That is not an easy decision to make for anyone. Our basic instincts always tell us that our own good is more important than the good of anyone else.
In this Gospel today Jesus tells us that the one who has His commandments and observes them is the one who loves Him. Many of us don’t like to hear loved defined by doing something that is concretely defined. If we want to look at Jesus’ commandments, we have to look first at the beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” By themselves, the beatitudes are enough of a homily for anyone!
We also need to be aware that Jesus always invites us. Even His commandment to love God and to love one another and to love our enemies are invitations. He commands us because He wants us to live. The way to real life is to love one another, to love God and to love our enemies.
Jesus gives us teachings like the beatitudes or like the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which someone goes out of his way to help another person who belongs to a grout of people rejected by his own social group. Who is our neighbor: the who has compassion on us. Who is our neighbor: the one on whom we have compassion.
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows us an early follower of Jesus casting out evil spirits. If only we could cast out the evil spirits of anger, hatred and possessiveness in our own time! And we can if we believe and start with ourselves.
The second reading, from the First Letter of Saint Peter, tells us that we should always speak to others about our faith with gentleness and reverence. This is wonderful advice for anyone who wants to preach Jesus Christ! Jesus is telling us how to live out His commandment of love.
So today, my sisters and brothers, we are invited by our Lord Jesus once again to change our lives, to allow the Spirit to transform us, to preach the Gospel with gentleness and reverence and to love everyone, especially our enemies (those who hate us, reject us, make fun of us, etc.). It is a strong message of the Lord Jesus and only possible to live if we ask the Holy Spirit to help us.