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Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)

I shall ask the Father, and he shall give you another Advocate

The Word This Week

By now we are some distance away from Easter, but the season is still permeated with the Easter message: Christ is risen, we are baptised in him. But today a new dimension of the story comes out: Easter is not complete until the risen Lord has returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit. So in the Gospel today we begin two weeks of looking forward to the coming of that ‘Spirit of truth’ which sets us apart from the world.

This is a Spirit of power, which flows through the life of the Church, enabling its members to ‘proclaim the Christ’ and, dwelling in our hearts, to live in the midst of the world’s slander and accusations.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17.

We continue to proclaim the growth of the Church through the ministry of the Apostles, on whom the Spirit had been sent; this ministry reveals the meaning of the death and resurrection of the Lord: that all might be saved.

This reading can be very powerful: it begins in an almost businesslike way, relating Philip’s message and the welcome he receives. But at the end of the first paragraph comes a very important line: ‘As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.’ How often do we ‘rejoice greatly’ that we have received the message of Jesus Christ? Read this in such a way that we all think for a moment about our own ‘rejoicing’ at the message.

The second paragraph will turn our thoughts immediately to the coming feast of Pentecost, and the sacrament of Confirmation, which seals the gift of baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus. Read this simply and carefully, so that people’s minds and hearts can be led by that same Spirit.


Second Reading 1 Peter 3:15-18.

This reading answers a question: “How should we Christians explain our way of life?” This question is expressed in the first sentence (be careful with the awkward phrasing): “...always have your answer ready / for people who ask you / the reason for the hope that you all have.”

This letter was written in a context not of friendly questions, but of threatening inquisitions by the Jewish authorities and the authorities of the Roman Empire - which sometimes led to persecution. This is why Peter makes such a point of the possibility of suffering ‘for doing right’. If we are attacked, then we are like Christ, and we remember that his death opened the way to our life. The last line is a simple link between the two great feasts of Easter and Pentecost: ‘In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.’

We do not face such persecutions today, but attacks on our faith still exist, in more subtle ways - such as indifference or ridicule. So we can take Peter’s message to heart as we learn what it is to be part of the Body of Christ this Sunday.



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