6th Sunday of Easter-Cycle A-2017

FIRST READING              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.

SECOND READING          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                 John 14:15-21

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.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”  We modern people often do not like the idea of commandments!  We are so caught up in freedom that we resist any sense of having to do anything because it is commanded!  On the other hand, married couples know that they must listen to one another and that their response to one another is a sort of obedience to one another.  Yes, for sure, after listening and speaking and dialoging.  This is very similar to the process of our faith in relationship to the Lord Jesus.  If we truly love Him, then we must listen to Him, we must speak with Him.  And we, at times, must dialog with Him.  This is what it means to love Him and to observe His commandments.

Some might think that it is much easier to listen, speak and dialog with a living person right in front of me.  Yet we all know how difficult it is to have any kind of deep relationship with another person.  We humans guard our own territory, our own ideas, our ways of thinking and everything that is personal!  Marriage has become more and more difficult.  So also has a consecrated religious life in a community.

To love another person always means that we must sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other person.  One of the great definitions of love is that ability to choose the good of the other person and give up our own good for the sake of the other person.  That definition sounds easy until we try to live it!

The Acts of the Apostles today, in our first reading, speaks about the people of Samaria receiving faith in the Lord Jesus.  These first moments of faith are incredible and give an enormous energy to a new Church.  In time, just as we also hear in the Acts of the Apostles, our humanity reasserts itself and we Christians must learn to life with conflicts, differences and even rejection.  The only way to overcome the negativities of community life is for each of us, personally, to commit our lives to the Lord and to strive to make our personal decisions based on our faith and not on our feelings, emotions or even thinking.

The second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, reminds us, in Jesus, that we must be put to death in the flesh and live in the Spirit.  This is the path of the Lord Jesus and it must be our path.  It sounds awful and perhaps even frightening—on the other hand, there is an incredible joy in walking in His ways and not in our own.  Sure, to follow Jesus will lead us on a path of suffering.  We cannot expect to live differently than our Lord.  Resurrection only comes through suffering and death.

Let us embrace the path of the Lord, let us walk with him, let us keep His commandments:  love God and love others.  Alleluia!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip