While our salvation was won by Jesus’s Death, our lives in Christ are not completely fulfilled until we receive the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, that Jesus promised to send us.
That Spirit of truth is the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It is only through the Spirit that we are able to enter into the fullness of communion with the Father and the Son and embrace the Good News of the Gospel in our daily lives.
Today’s First Reading shows us how that works. Although Jesus himself had passed through Samaria, and even revealed himself as the Messiah to the woman at the well, it wasn’t until after the Holy Spirit had come that the people in that region were able to fully accept Philip and his teachings about Jesus. Then, once they were able to accept Jesus through Baptism, Peter and John came, prayed, laid hands on the people, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
This reading may shed some light on the important distinction between the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Baptism brings us into the family of God, but Confirmation enables us to live out the Christian message with greater courage and conviction through the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, Jesus says that not only is the Spirit with us, but he also actually remains within us. This is why Jesus tells us that “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Through the action of the Spirit, we are united in an unprecedented way with God and can truly become his sons and daughters.
The people of Samaria accepted the word of God preached by Philip; they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17).
This reading shows the growth of the Church in several ways. After Jerusalem, Samaria is to be the next, followed by the rest of the world. Philip is the one who preaches the Word with power in Samaria, picking up where Stephen left off. The deacons of the Church are seen as exercising the charism received from their Ordination, and this is confirmed by miraculous signs and conversions. We see, therefore, an extension of the ministry of the Church beyond the Apostles and an indication that her territory will extend throughout the world.
The mention that the crowds who heard the Gospel in Samaria were attentive “without exception” may also suggest the first instance of the principle that would become an axiom in the early Church: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” We’re perhaps seeing in Samaria the fruit of the seed sown by St. Stephen in his martyrdom for Christ.
Act with gentleness and reverence toward all, so that when you are maligned those who defame you will be the ones put to shame (1 Peter 3:15-18)
If it isn’t clear by now, Peter is writing to a church that’s suffering or is likely to suffer. But the suffering of the Church, whether obvious or secret, is a fact of our history, too. It’s of the nature of Christian discipleship to suffer like Christ. Peter’s particular point this week is that Christ’s suffering was salvific and therefore, our sufferings should be as well. But if this is to happen, we need to know, the why of Christ’s suffering. He chose to suffer to “lead you to God,” the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous. That is, he suffered for us who were his enemies by sin. This is how he loved his enemies, not by speaking sentimental words of love to them, but by suffering for them. Those are the footsteps that we’re called to walk in. And we ought to have no illusions—they’re hard to follow.
I will not leave you orphans, but will come to you (John 14:15-21)
John begins his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word,” and the importance of words in his Gospel is partly derived from that foundational statement. As the Word, Jesus is the definitive law of God. In himself he expresses the new law, the new commandment, the new covenant of love. He makes clear in this passage that like the old covenant, one must obey the commandments of God as an act of love for God. For the Jews and for Jesus, love and law aren’t opposed—they’re vitally linked.
This obedient love leads to “seeing” and “recognizing” in John. In the RSV edition, "recognize" is translated as “know,” which better connotes of an active relationship between the knower and the one known. So obedient love, keeping the commandments, leads to a “knowing” that’s mysterious and, perhaps, comparable to the knowledge of marriage. The world cannot know the Son, Spirit, or Father in this way; rather, only the obedient disciple can be caught up in this embrace. In that embrace, love and law melt into one; just as the vows of marriage are at one and the same time a law under which the spouses place themselves and a word of love that they share.
DIGGING DEEPER: Samaria
Samaria is a mountainous region in northern Palestine. In Old Testament times, it was captured by the Israelites from the Canaanites. When the Assyrians conquered the area, much of the population was taken into the Babylonian Exile. The region became a Roman province in 6 AD. In addition to meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus healed ten lepers on the border between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-19).
Picture yourself in the crowd in Samaria as Peter and John pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. You watch as they lay hands on the people. Now imagine that Peter comes to you and lays hands on you. What do you tell him? What does he say to you?
Ask the Holy Spirit to enter into your being in a new and profound way this week. Watch for evidence of his presence and give thanks.
Use a journal to write down your thoughts, reflections and your resolutions. Set aside some time this week to sit in the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel.