On this sixth Sunday of Easter, the First Reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles. After the martyrdom of Stephen, a severe persecution broke out, and all the followers of Jesus except the Apostles scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. God uses this terrible event to bring the Good News to the people of Samaria, a people despised by Jews. These verses focus on the evangelization ministry of Philip, one of the first Seven Deacons: “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them.”
To draw attention to Philip's preaching, God worked many miracles through him, and many Samaritans were converted and baptized. The joy that was exhibited was from the Spirit of Jesus that they received in Baptism. Finally, it seems that the laying on of hands for the coming of the Spirit is something reserved for the Apostles: “Then Peter and John laid hands on them (the Samaritans) and they received the Holy Spirit.” Through the imposition of hands by the successors of the Apostles (our bishops), we also receive the Holy Spirit.
The Second Reading is from the First Letter of St. Peter. The communities to whom Peter writes “may have to suffer through various trials (1 Peter 1:6) and “suffer because of righteousness” (4:14). These verses from 1 Peter advise the newly baptized in the Church, the Christians, to continue to remain faithful to Jesus even in the face of hostility. Peter advises a different response, centered on Christ. They are to “sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts.” This means that they are to affirm Christ’s holiness and with Christ in their hearts, believers have a living and vibrant explanation of the hope they maintain. A second important thing to note in this reading is Peter tells his followers to share the Good News of the Gospel with anyone who is interested, not with force or domination, but gently sharing with them the great things God has done for all of them. The Holy Spirit will help you in doing this. He will never fail you.
Today’s Gospel, taken from the Gospel of John “Last Supper Discourse,” describes the gift Jesus will ask the Father to send, the Holy Spirit, Who will live as the Paraclete, (‘Paraclete’ literally means ‘alongside of’) the Divine Advocate, in those who obey Jesus’ commandments, especially the commandment of love. The Divine Advocate will enable us to defend our Faith powerfully and will guide us properly in our practice of true Christian love. This is the love that made St. Peter so brave and bold after the Holy Spirit descended upon him that first Pentecost Sunday. In addition, as the Divine Advocate, the Holy Spirit will instruct us in Jesus’ doctrines and illumine our minds to receive deeper knowledge of our Faith.