Sixth Sunday of Easter
The gospel again finds us in the Upper Room listening to Jesus as he speaks to his disciples in the hours before his arrest. Why do we devote so much time in the Easter season to his final discourse?
Because in this discourse, the Lord speaks most clearly about the meaning of his life, his ministry, his saving mission, and his impending death
. The Fifty Days of Easter are a time for all of us, and especially the newly-baptized and initiated, to reflect prayerfully on the new life we are called to live in Christ. In prayerful reflection, we appreciate the wonders God has accomplished for us in his Son.
Jesus tells his friends about an imminent change in their three-year walk with him. He says:
Someone else is coming
. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.”
Why does this promise make Christianity unique? When we grasp its meaning, we understand that Jesus came not only to reveal how to live a fully human life in the image and likeness of God,
but he also made it possible for his own life to be lived in us
. With the coming of the Holy Spirit (the “Advocate”), believers will not simply be following an ethical system or a path to God. Jesus had something more dynamic mind for those who believed in him: “On that day you will realize that
I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”
Followers of Jesus will receive in themselves, in their own bodies, minds, and hearts, the life they see in him. This will be possible because of the gift of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to send, first to the apostles and then to all in the Church. This is why Christianity is different from every other formulation of how people should live,
this personal life of Christ in us, through the gift of His Spirit.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has summed this up well in his Holy Week meditation in
Jesus of Nazareth:
"This essential dynamic of
through which he now acts in us and our action becomes one with his, is seen with particular clarity in Jesus’ saying: ‘He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these, because I go to the Father.’ This expresses exactly what is meant by ‘I have given you an example’ from the account of the foot-washing: Jesus’ action becomes ours
because he is acting in us.”
We are his mystical body. Being a Christian isn’t merely trying to be a good person, to live as we think Jesus would want.
Being a Christian means Jesus lives his life in us.
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes what happened after the death of Stephen, the deacon who became the Church’s first martyr. A great persecution broke out against the believers in Jerusalem, and they fled the city, except the apostles
Instead of silencing the gospel message, as the persecutors had hoped, this scattering actually spread it.
Philip – not the apostle of that name but a deacon – escaped to Samaria and “proclaimed the Christ to them.” What enabled him to be fearless in doing the very thing that had gotten him run out of Jerusalem? He, along with Stephen and the other deacons, had been men “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” The Holy Spirit gave Philip the power to courageously do what Jesus had done: preach the Gospel without counting the cost.
The response to Philip’s ministry was dramatic. The people of Samaria saw him performing the same signs and wonders they had first seen in Jesus. News of these conversions reached the Twelve in Jerusalem. Peter and John went down to make sure that the preaching and the resulting conversions were consistent with the faith they had been charged to spread. Verifying that these new Christians were true believers, they laid hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit.
There is in the New Testament, evidence of a two-step initiation into the life of Jesus: first, baptism, then the laying on of hands to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Why did it develop this way?
Remember that when Jesus was at the Jordan River with John the Baptist, he first underwent baptism in water, and then the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. The two separate actions that began his public ministry were repeated first in the apostles. On Easter night, the risen Christ appeared to them and breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Then, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell on them dramatically, and they, too, began their public ministry.
We should not be surprised, then, that initiation into the life of Christ involved two steps: baptism and the laying on of hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit, what we now call the sacrament of confirmation.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Confirmation “completes the grace of baptism” and “. . . perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church” (1288).
These two sacraments of initiation bring us into the life of Christ.
This helps us understand the promise of Jesus in the Gospel: “In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live and you will live.” The life of Jesus continues on earth in the lives of all who believe in him, in you and me, the Church.
Churches in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, including St. Joseph's Downtown, reopen Tuesday, May 19,
with the usual schedule of weekday and weekend Masses, sacraments, and ministry. We will practice social distancing and you are asked to use a face mask to keep everyone safe and healthy.
video of Sunday Mass at St. Joseph
is posted on YouTube at the St. Joseph Church Downtown Media page starting this weekend. We thank the Strelchun Family and John Francis for filming and editing the video so beautifully. Visit the St. Joseph Media (Downtown) page. Mass for each Sunday and major feasts will be recorded.
Please pray for St. Joseph's former pastor, Fr. Mario Marzocchi, SSS,
who is recovering from a serious infection and facing other health issues in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.
In a spirit of caring for each other in these difficult days,
we encourage you to support efforts to feed our neighbors in need via Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and local food banks.
Thank you for supporting St. Joseph Downtown
through our parish website (
) or Give Central (
Anthony Schueller SSS
on Sunday, May 17 at 2:11PM