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Sixth Sunday of Easter — May 21, 2017

Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

Jesus, appears to his disciples after the resurrection. By now in the Easter season we have made friends with the Acts of the Apostles, 1 Peter and the Gospel of John. These readings have framed our Easter experience with rich stories and images.

We are now walking with all deliberate speed towards the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. So we listen more carefully to references about the Spirit. These references have been with us all along because the Acts of the Apostles record the work of the Spirit in the small Jerusalem community as it grows, matures and spreads the Good News to the ends of the world.

Today we hear how Philip, a newly ordained deacon, proclaims the Gospel to the non- Jews in Samaria who accept the word of God with joy and are baptized. Peter and John arrive to lay hands on the newly baptized thus completing the grace and reception of the Spirit they received in Baptism. This scene depicts a primitive Confirmation rite. But there is also an ecumenical nature to this short passage. Truly the work of the Spirit shows that disparate groups — Jews and Samaritans — can be united in their faith in Jesus.

Our gospel reading, like last Sunday’s, is taken from the first of the three farewell talks given by Jesus at the Last Supper. The disciples realize that Jesus is leaving them. Jesus addresses their fears and concerns which we can only imagine and listen to in our own hearts. How will they be united with one another? What is the future for a group their size? How will they love Jesus when he is gone? Jesus promises not to leave them as orphans and to send them “another advocate” who will never leave them. This Advocate will strengthen and enlighten them to face the challenges of the future.

A short phrase in this Gospel reading stands out: “I will come to you” (John 14:18). Scholars hold that this coming refers to the post-resurrection appearances. During these days leading up to the feast of the Ascension, we may want to re-read the accounts of those appearances that have been part of our Easter celebration.

—Sister Dominica Rocchio, SC

Sr. Dominica RocchioSr. Dominica, most recently a member of the Congregation’s leadership team, has ministered in education as a teacher, principal, and in administrative positions in the archdioceses of New York and Newark, NJ. In Newark, she served as Superintendent of Schools and Secretary for Education. At present, she works on Special Projects for the Congregation.

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