Learning to proclaim the reason for our hope

By: By Sister Agnes Cunningham, SSCM

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 29

Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8,14-17; Psalm 66:1-2,4-5,6-7,16,20; 1 Peter 3:15-18 or 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 14:15-21 or John 17:1-11a

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria belongs to one of the ecclesiastical provinces in the United States that have transferred the feast of the Ascension from Thursday to what would otherwise be the Seventh Sunday of Easter. As a result, the second reading and the Gospel from that day’s liturgy may be used today. In either case, the biblical texts are from the first Letter of Peter and the Gospel according to John.

In both instances, we are pointed toward the grace-filled event of Pentecost with its assurance of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

The Holy Spirit’s presence and action among us are clearly affirmed in today’s Scripture passages. In the first reading, we find Philip in the city of Samaria. There is no rejection of this itinerant Jewish preacher here. Did the Samaritans, once responding to the word of another “Magdalene” who had discovered a man who had told her everything she had done, recognize the name of Christ?

At the prayer of Peter and John arriving at the report of Philip’s good news, the Samaritans baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus received the Holy Spirit. “There was great joy in that city.”

GRACE-FILLED SEASON
In the second reading, Peter instructs us about the conduct that is to be ours. Like Christ, through him and with him, we have been brought to life in the Spirit. It is the Spirit who enables us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. We learn to proclaim with gentleness and reverence, gifts of the Spirit, the reason for the hope that is in us. We are led in the Spirit to seek and know the will of God, suffering for doing good, finding what becomes for us an inexhaustible source of joy

The alternate second reading (1 Peter 4:13-16), echoes these themes. Peter insists on our sharing in the sufferings of Christ through a life blessed by the Spirit of glory and of God resting on us. Suffering as a Christian for the name of Christ gives glory to God and is for us a source of the joy that is one of the fruits of life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

The Gospel proclaimed today is a selection from the “Book of Glory” (John 13:1 — 19:42) in which Jesus explains how the entire Paschal Mystery leads to his triumph over sin and death and his fulfillment of the Father’s mission. We are led to contemplate the deep mysteries of our faith: the Trinity, the divine Indwelling, our adoption as daughters and sons with Christ, the assurance of another Advocate once Christ has returned to the Father, the reward of keeping the Lord’s commandments, and a reminder that the primacy of love is, perhaps in a unique sense, the “one thing necessary.”

In the alternate Gospel reading (John 17:1-11a), we are gifted with an intimate glimpse into the heart of the Only Son’s prayer to his beloved Abba. In what has often been referred to as the “high priestly prayer of Jesus,” we stand in awe and gratitude for the graces we have received during this Easter season.

It is time to turn to the next feast that appears on our horizon. The Ascension of Christ is before us, with the Risen Lord’s commission to proclaim, to baptize, to give witness to the ends of the earth, and the promise of an abiding presence of Christ with us until the end of time.

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SISTER AGNES Cunningham, SSCM, is a member of the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, an international, pontifical religious institute for women. She resides as an “active-retired” member of the congregation’s Mercy Community in Champaign.

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