The life and resurrection of Jesus give eternal significance to our life
By Tim Irwin
Sixth Sunday of Easter/May 21
Acts 8:5-8,14-17; Psalm 66:1-3,4-5,6-7,16,20; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
This week’s readings highlight the church’s desire to help us experience the mystery of the Risen Christ, so that we might authentically live the Holy Faith. The resurrection of Jesus transcends our experiences. Everyone I know who has died has had the decency to stay dead. No one has returned, much less returned in a perfected state. So, if we had been among the apostles, what we would make of the experience of Christ risen? What would we anticipate happening next and how should we rightly respond?
The events recounted in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles occur sometime after Pentecost. Phillip proclaimed Christ to some the Samaritans and baptized them. When the news of their conversion reached the apostles, they rejoiced and Peter and James traveled to confer the Holy Spirit upon them. This explains why the church teaches that the sacraments of baptism and confirmation are a right response to the Risen Christ.
It also illustrates the kind of fundamental changes in thinking that resulted from the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. The Samaritans were the hated enemy of the Jews. Baptism and confirmation had been conferred upon them and they did indeed receive the Holy Spirit. Old barriers of prejudice that had estranged people for generations were falling.
The second reading from First Peter schools the faithful then and now in the proper disposition for evangelization — a right response. The passage reads in part, “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.”
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
We followers of Christ are called to evangelize by the way we live our lives in the Holy Spirit. It’s a tall order, but if today we find ourselves weighed down by a skeptical culture that claims life is meaningless and absurd, then embracing what the first Christians experienced in the Holy Spirit through baptism and confirmation may be well worth the effort. It will give our struggle the same eternal significance that they experienced.
The Gospel from John explains how we should respond to Christ crucified and risen. “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.” John’s meditation continues, “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.”
So, if we had been among the apostles, how should have we responded to the Risen Christ? Just as they did then and we can now do. Participate in the sacramental life of the church. Reaffirm our commitment to Christ that was celebrated in our baptism and confirmation.
This week’s readings remind us that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus gives the storm and struggle of this life an eternal significance. More is happening in this life than meets the eye. We are called to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to share in the love and life of the Risen Christ, evangelizing those mired in the meaninglessness and absurdity of our culture by our prudent practice of the holy faith.
Tim Irwin teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria.