Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
1 Peter 3:15-18
Beginning with the Easter Vigil and continuing for the next few months, there is much of Sacraments in our Church. Baptisms, Confirmations, First Communions and, of course, Ordinations and Marriages. The Church is doing what the Church is, the very actions of Jesus’ taking flesh.
In today’s First Reading, we hear of Philip's proclaiming the Word of God and getting the attention of a separated sect by performing great signs. Philip was ordained to such doings. Here is the rest of the story. Headquarters in Jerusalem hears about this group’s being baptized, but as of yet, they had not received the laying on of hands so as to also receive the Holy spirit. So Peter and John are sent to sacramentalize their fuller entrance into the new community which will become the Church.
A sidelight story in this same chapter, which is not included by the Church in today’s First Reading, is about a certain Simon the Magician who sees this Sacrament being performed, has a thought. This power seems stronger than his magic so he proposes to the Apostles to buy this sacred work of Christ. Of course it can not be purchased or earned, because it is an absolute gift. Incidentally, this is the derivation of the English word, Simony which is the buying and selling of sacred objects or blessings.
The Gospel is the continuation of Jesus’ preparing His friends for His departure, but their not being abandoned and left as “orphans.” There is an intensification of the intimacy between God and us in this section. With the passing beyond of Jesus, a new relationship begins.
Jesus has loved His friends and will intensify that love even to the death on the Cross. He reminds His early Church that they will continue to have a way to love Him. Notice once more, God loves us first, in Christ, and our response has to be in human terms, human expressions. Jesus reminds them that loving Him is revealed through keeping, not only the famous Ten Commandments, but the even more human commandment of loving one another.
The Sacraments, which are the gestures of Jesus extended into time and according to human experiences, are given as gifts to be lived as part of the new relationship between God and us. The reception of the Sacraments is but a beginning. We are all ordained by the various Sacraments simply, to be sacraments or visible, lively, loving presences of Jesus in the important times of the lives of God’s family.
The distinction begins in this Gospel, between the Apostles and the “world.” The Holy Spirit is to abide, animate, and bring forth the “fruits of holiness” within the lives of the church. The “world” will war against this work of God by various temptations to doubt fear, and resist such a dependency of faith. The “world” is dark, but Christ has penetrated that lightlessness. He has ordained us all to continue that light according to this unearned gift of Grace. The “world” would say that I am not enough and do not have enough to persevere in living my various ordinations. The Spirit is ours enough, but it wars within us all and the part of the “world” within us.
The wonderful consideration for us today is about what of God do we reveal. What Sacraments do we bring, or rather bring us, to this “world?” Marriage for example, is the ordaining of human love so that the two become one in their being two distinct humans who go out from the light of their love into the darkness of this “world” blest to be a blessing.
Those of us not married are ordained by each Sacrament we receive to involve ourselves in Christ’s being the Light in this “world.” The hardest part about being a sacrament is that the world’s judgementalness and negativity, and subsequent darkness, is also within us. I personally do not feel as holy as the actions I perform, which is what my ordaining bishop challenged me to be. I have to resist often, the temptation to listen to the voice of the “world” within me as I hear confessions or raise the chalice, “These penitents and faithful in the pews are holier than you are, so give it all up! Get real!”
I think it was Chesterton who wrote that Jesus loved the world enough
to die for it, but not so much as to be seduced by it. We who live
His Sacraments so as to be His sacraments have to keep listening to His
voice lest the voice of the “world” seduce us into the stillness of the
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