Daily Reflection
May 1st, 2005

Larry Gillick, S.J.

Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The SixthSunday in Easter
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Psalm 66:
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

Two weeks from this Sunday is the great celebration of Pentecost. We are preparing to be more available to the promptings of that Spirit which comforts, protects, guides, and encourages the fuller experience of who each of us is. We prepare to celebrate the Eucharist by living more faithfully our having been baptized in that same Spirit. We are invited to live in hope so distinctly that people will ask us for an explanation.

We pray as well so that the Spirit who comforted Jesus in His personal sufferings might do the same within us. Our doing good things will not always be successful or received well by others. We are praying to be more bold in our revealing the Good Word.

Steven, the first martyr for Christ is a victim of the persecution of the early Church. Saul, who himself would become a follower of Jesus, greatly encouraged and assisted in this purge.

Our first reading opens with Philip’s going away from Jerusalem with many others who were fleeing the persecution. Unfortunately we do not hear today the verses of this chapter about a man named Simon the Magician, who has been working the crowds of Samaria before Philip arrives. Philip preaches the Good News and performs the healing miracles. The crowds forsake their following of the Magician and seek baptism in the name of Jesus. Even Simon desires a bit of the action and asks if he can strike a deal with Philip by his purchasing with money some of the Spirit with which Philip works his miracles. We do not hear this exchange either, but it does point out that this baptism is a free gift as is the Holy Spirit.

Many in Samaria also come to be confirmed by the Church so Peter and John come to lay hands on those who have heard the Good News and desire to live as “good words” themselves. The Holy Spirit urges incarnation, that is, that those who believe in their hearts might be freed to give flesh to God’s goodness within them. The early Church grew through the work of the Spirit and the works of those who lived what they believed.

This coming week we will be celebrating the mystery of the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven. Today’s Gospel continues the final instructions and prayers of Jesus over His Apostles. He is going to first leave them after this discourse by giving His life on the cross. He then will leave them after His resurrection through His being taken up out of their sight in the Ascension. The words we hear today are a comforting reminder that though He will be leaving them, He will send a kind of “holy lawyer” to be their advocate, consulter, inspirationer, and encourager.

Jesus speaks to His friends about the centrality of “loving” Him. This is a rather difficult spiritual reality. How to “love” God and thereby fulfill the First Commandment and what Jesus asks here. It can sound as if God will love us if we keep each commandment. This could mean also that each Commandment had to be observed quite perfectly in order to allow God’s love to flow. This is very dangerous Theology and resulting Spirituality.

In the business world if I do something which is expected and required, then I might be appreciated, but I certainly expect to be paid accordingly. In school when we did everything correctly and politely our teachers were expected to smile and give us a gold star and a good grade. Do we love God by doing the “good works” and then God loves us in response? No!!!!

The “Spirit of truth whom the world can not accept” is this Advocate or Spirit of God who is given to this world as a reminder. The Spirit is sent to confirm the world in the simple truth that we are in Christ who is in the Father. The “world” can not accept being that dependent or intimately united. The “world” (and we are a part of that world) wants its own freedom of identity and behavior. To love God is to accept the God-given truth that I am and we are and all is a God-given truth. Accepting this truth is the work of the Spirit as well as living that truth. The good we do is not a price we pay, but a revelation of who we really are in Christ Who is in the Father.

Keeping Jesus’ commandments by our doing things begins with our receiving firstly the command that Jesus is. This Command is to allow ourselves to be loved and to accept our being in Christ by His being Savior. Jesus saves us first from false identities and being lost in the search. The Spirit is sent to continue our becoming more in Christ.

The life of John Paul II was guided by this Holy Spirit promised in today’s Gospel. His writings, spoken words, and his actions all increased the experience of what the Church is and does. He was not a magician but in some way a miracle worker of sorts. The increase was not in numbers especially, but in the Church’s expressing the “truth which the world cannot accept.” The sacredness of human life is emphasized, because of the createdness, savedness and blessedness of each person. Because of such a presence in the Church during these years, this human, but inspirited Church has and will attract attention both from those who want to be within the movement, or those like Saul who work to prevent its spreading. His work and the work of his Spirit and that of Jesus is not done yet.

“Speak out with a voice of joy; let it be heard to the ends of the earth- the Lord has set his people free, alleluia.” Isaiah 48, 20
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