To approach the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter historically, begin with the Acts of the Apostles and follow with the Gospel of John, which was written several decades after the Acts of the Apostles.
The selection from Acts is taken from about the middle of the book. Evangelization has spread throughout Jerusalem, Samaria and Asia Minor. The spread of Christianity has been phenomenal, propelled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Persecution of Christians only hastened the spread of Christianity. When new Christians experienced the Holy Spirit filling them with His peace and joy, they continued to witness, even to the point of bloodshed.
If suffering for the faith brings one spiritually alive and this aliveness seems to want to last an eternity, then why would physical suffering be a deterrent to belief?
When Paul and Barnabas were evangelizing in Antioch, some Jews came down from Jerusalem telling the followers of Paul and Barnabas that without circumcision, Gentiles can’t be saved.
How would the Holy Spirit solve this problem? Simple.
Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to consult the apostles, and the apostles declared that circumcision wasn’t necessary for salvation. They sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch, together with Judas and Silas, and a letter from the apostles stating: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”
What peace, what power we have at work here! The Church is built on the foundation of the Word of God, and its consultant is none less than the Holy Spirit of God. This Holy Spirit released upon the Church at Pentecost energized and unified the early Church.
Jesus spoke the words of this Gospel passage before His passion and death, but they were first written down by John decades after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Hence John captures the deeper meaning of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit.
John, the beloved disciple, lived under the same roof as Mary after the Resurrection. He had the benefit of a contemplative consultant available every day. I can only imagine the profound conversations they had about Jesus and His teachings. Hence John entered profoundly into the meaning of Jesus’ teachings and miracles.
In the Gospel, John quotes Jesus telling us: “Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.” Note the intimacy we have with the Father and with Jesus through the Holy Spirit! This certainly helps us to understand Pentecost in a new light.
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us propels us forward more deeply into the mystery of divine indwelling.
“Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words; yet the word you hear is not Mine but that of the Father who sent Me.” If we keep His word in our heart and live by it, we will experience intimacy with all three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
He says: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you.”
How about that for a promise of a future with the First Family, a future that begins right now! The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, helps us to understand the experience of intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity. “Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.”
He continues: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.” Christ gives us His peace for living His word. Some people seem to lack peace all their lives until shortly before death. Others struggle with un-forgiveness of others and themselves. However, once they begin praying for the person, their anger abates because they choose to participate in Christ’s forgiveness of others. Then they find peace.
Each of us has the daily opportunity to be intimate with Jesus and the Father through reflecting on His word in the power of the Holy Spirit. I know many people who would never let a day go by without reading a paragraph from Scripture and then spending some time, in the power of the Holy Spirit, asking for light and wisdom.
If you want more intimacy in your life, trade 20 minutes each day watching the news or Netflix or reading things on the Internet with quality, quiet time with Jesus and the Father reflecting on His Word. This always blesses us. Sometimes it inspires us to practice virtue for a family member or a friend. Sometimes it surprises us with a truth about ourselves that is freeing. Sometimes we come to realize that instead of accepting God’s love and forgiveness, we are hard on ourselves and not accepting the mercy God offers. In the “Our Father,” our Father offers us mercy. Do we accept this gift? The more we accept it, the more free and joyful we will be.