Lectionary Readings: (From the Biblical meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP)
- Acts 8:5-8, 14-17. Philip the deacon evangelizes Samaria. Peter and John come to impose hands that the newly baptized persons may receive the Holy Spirit.
- Peter 3: 15-18. “Speak gently and respectfully” when asked about “this hope of yours.” It is better to suffer for good deeds than for evil ones. “This is why Christ died for sins once for everyone.”
- John 14:15-21. Jesus promises the Spirit of truth. Therefore you will not be orphaned. “I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
Thoughts for Your Consideration: By John Gonzalez
The Christian faith is member of the Monotheistic family. Along with the Jewish and Islamic faiths we share in the dogmatic belief that there is only one God. As a result of this fundamental premise we are invited to see all of humanity and creation as one common family with one common purpose to love and serve God and one another. A complex but extremely meaningful expression of this monotheistic mystery that is specific to the Christian faith is the image of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a mystery that tries to explain how we do indeed have only One God but we understand our God to exist in relationship to itself and all of creation. In the Gospel passage for this week Jesus shares with his disciples this Trinitarian mystery by reaffirming the relationship that he has with the Father as two persons of one substance and then introduces a third member of the Godhead whom he calls “the advocate… the Spirit of Truth” and who we Christians revere as the Holy Spirit.
St. Thomas Aquinas explored this mystical relationship of the Holy Trinity not only as a relational expression of the Godhead but also a relational expression that connects all of creation with God. Here is the passage from question 45 article 7 in the Summa where Aquinas explains this mystical and holistic relationship.
“But in all creatures there is found the trace of the Trinity, inasmuch as in every creature are found some things which are necessarily reduced to the divine Persons as to their cause. For every creature subsists in its own being; it has a form by which it is determined to a species; and it has relation to some other thing. Therefore, according as it is a created substance, it represents the cause and principle; and in this manner it reveals the Person of the Father, Who is the principle from no principle.”
Going back to the Gospel passage Jesus affirms that his disciples have been invited to share in the relational experience that Jesus and the Holy Spirit share with the Father. Recognizing the concern that the disciples have in physically having to let him go Jesus goes to assure them.
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.”
Christians at times worry about what they must do in order to enter the Kingdom of God. It seems that the disciples also worried about this concern and Jesus starts off by offering them the same common denominator that we continue to offer today “keep my commandments.” But the way Jesus continues to explain this relationship you get the sense that this concern of ours is misplaced. We are not undergoing a test to see if we make it to the “pearly gates.” Jesus is challenging his disciples to see themselves at this moment as already sharing in this eternal lifestyle and this mystical and universal
relationship. In their own way the disciples slowly come to understand themselves as part of the divine relationship that St. Thomas discusses above. As they minister to the world about this amazing insight they do not set themselves apart from anyone else even by those who persecute them. This is simply because they recognize the full implication and relational obligation that comes from sharing in the divine essence.
Thus Peter in the second reading tells the early Christian community that they must share in the hope that they have through Christ but to “do it with gentleness and reverence.” All members of the human community are our brothers and sisters. All aspects of creation share in the divine relationship. The enlightenment that Jesus offers us is to see each other in this light and to preach this divine relationship with gentleness and reverence
to one another.
The first reading takes us back to the example of the early church in promoting this Gospel message. Philip does not demonstrate this mystical relationship with dogmatic principles or philosophical ideologies. He proclaims Christ by ministering to their needs and this produced “great joy in that city.” Peter and John then add to Philip’s great work by praying and empowering them with the Holy Spirit so that they too can see themselves as part of this Trinitarian relationship.