Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 8: 5-8 & 14-17; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21
The Gospel accounts of
the resurrection narrate the various appearances of Christ, the risen Lord. These familiar passages by no means exhaust the biblical witness to the resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles, with its vivid descriptions of the faith in the earliest Christian communities, is surely the most detailed account of the risen Lord. Here the vitality of the resurrection was seen at work. Christ, truly present in the hearts of believers, broke down the barriers that divided peoples. The Christ who had brought reconciliation and healing to the people of Israel, now ministered to the whole world through the people that he had gathered to himself.
Christ is risen! He lives amongst us! We do not need the privileged encounters of those first disciples. As we minister to each other in the name of Jesus, Christ is present.
The episode in this Sunday's reading from the Acts of the Apostles demonstrates this presence of Christ the risen Lord. Philip had travelled to a Samaritan town. The inhabitants had listened to his account of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Many had been healed and set free from the ghosts of the past.
The simplicity of this description does not linger on the inner transformation that was taking place within those who believed. Those who heard the Good News received more than words. Deep within themselves there was an encounter, a meeting with the living Lord. From now onwards they would have no need to relive the experiences of those earlier disciples who had walked with Jesus the dusty paths of Palestine. Whenever they came together in prayer, or for the breaking of bread, He would be with them. He would reveal himself to them in the community.
We also meet Christ day by day. He dwells within us. We know him in each other. Sadly we sometimes allow the familiarity of the everyday to cloud this, our most undoubted meeting with the risen Lord.
In John's gospel, Jesus speaks at length of the way in which he would continue to be with his disciples after the resurrection.
"I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive, since it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he is with you, he is in you." As the passage unfolds, we see the greatest work of the Holy Spirit: to make of us the dwelling place of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
"I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you. On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you.'
At Pentecost we will celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that the Spirit might be renewed in us, that we might discover afresh the power of Christ's resurrection at work amongst us. Christ did not leave his disciples with memories alone! Through the gift of the Spirit he made them his dwelling place. What the tomb could not contain found its home in the hearts of the faithful. May the Spirit bring us to rejoice in this simple truth: that we live in Christ, and he in us. In the words of St. Peter, let us be ready to answer for the glorious hope that is within us.