SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (2023)
Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17
Psalms 66:1-7, 16, 20
1 Peter 3:15-18 ”Keep your conscience clear, so that,
when you are maligned, those who defame your good
conduct on Christ, may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good… than for doing
evil (v. 16-17).”
As previously predicted, the Sunday readings, as we get closer to the end of the Easter Season with Pentecost Sunday, are going to have a greater emphasis on the third person of the blessed Trinity, the Spirit. In a very real way, at least liturgically, we have seen the Spirit, come and go over the last six weeks of Easter, especially since the gospels are not unanimous in the timing of the event. For John’s gospel it happens on the very day of the resurrection, “the first night of the week,” when the apostles were locked in an upper room. For the gospels of Mark and Matthew it is never mentioned, and for Luke of course, in his Acts of the Apostles, it occurs some fifty days after the resurrection. It is Luke’s approach that the Church has adopted liturgically.
What we have in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles is a recounting of the very first “confirmation,” a visible confirmation of one’s sharing in the Spirit by the local Church authorities, in this case Peter and John. Notice the distinction in the reading between baptism and confirmation, a distinction which prompts Peter and John to go down to the Samaritan community to confirm their possession of the Spirit.
Presently in the Church there is an ambivalent approach to confirmation by most Catholics, and separation from the Church as a whole has made the act of confirmation, as we know it, more the exception than the rule. Not being confirmed being no impediment for a Catholic wedding only increases the number of Catholics choosing to pass on an official confirmation. Further, the mistaken move by some dioceses to attach all sorts of pre-conditions to confirmation has made it more like a scout badge than an actual sacrament of the Church, and the rigid regulations in some places make it all but impossible for some very busy young people to even consider the ceremony of confirmation.
The reality is that at our baptisms the Spirit came down as it did at Pentecost and blessed the water being pored over our foreheads. Original sin makes us spiritual orphans, and separates us from the Vine that is Christ, through whom all blessings flow. Christ’s redemptive death on the cross restores what was broken. As Paul says in Romans, “the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (v. 16).”
It is the Spirit that invigorated the apostles in the days following the resurrection, and it is that same Spirit that works in and through us, enabling us to keep God’s commandments. The Spirit is a sign and symbol that God recognized that even as the people of God, even as “the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the people set apart,” God knew we would need help. With John as our guide, God wasted no time in bestowing the Spirit, sending us an “Advocate to be with us always,” and helping us to do the works of God. It was the Spirit working through the disciples that attracted others to see in Jesus a model for their lives. It is the Spirit working in us that helps us accomplish things we never thought possible. It remains just as attractive to the persons who live in our troubled world, and it is just as possible to draw others to Christ though us, the font and source of all that is good.