Sixth Sunday of Easter May 29, 2011
I want you to use your God given imaginations today. Pretend you have a mirror in your hand. Oh I know, the women are better at this than men. But when we men are honest, we know when were teenagers we spent a good deal of time in front of a mirror prepping for that moment we might encounter that girl of our dreams.
Hold up your mirror in front of your face and gaze into it! Here’s looking at you! The Holy Spirit seeks to draw the one looking back in the mirror into the unfolding story of salvation history. It is a Spirit of unity and evangelization in this Easter season as the feast of Pentecost draws near.
We hear the voices of the early Christians, a Deacon, the Apostles, Peter himself and Jesus Christ who teaches He is always in unity with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each voice is calls us out to an adventure by participating in the evangelization of the world.
Are we ready? Simultaneously we are confronted by a world unable and unwilling to recognize, let alone encounter the spirit of truth. As such the world creates artificial boundaries and stumbling blocks for us. It works on our expectations of who is the one called to this job. So whose job is it? It’s the pope’s job! It’s the Bishop or priest’s job! No it’s the deacon’s job! Well it’s not my job? The works overtime to an escape artists attitude in each one of us!
We have been taught and know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. The Commandments come from one, the Word Incarnate comes from another while the spirit of the advocate comes from yet another. Today’s scriptures teach while each may appear to move independently the Trinity always moves and works in harmony and unity of purpose.
It is our worldly view that contaminates and prevents us from seeing the fullness of the truth.
Acts Chapter 8: 1. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
What a mess – what a mess! The early church confronted a mess from the very beginning!
And before we can take a breath, we hear of Steven, one of the seven chosen to wait at table to serve widows and free the apostles to pray, teach and preach. Not expected is Steven chosen as a waiter and there he is out preaching the good news in the street for which he is stoned to death. And who is standing in the crowd but Paul the unexpected converter of the gentiles. Remember Paul who is watching as Steven is being stoned to death is still hard at work hunting down and persecuting Christians.
That is the back drop of today’s liturgy of the word describing the formation of the early church. God reveals himself in salvation history by calling and opening the unexpected folk to step into the role of evangelist.
Because of the persecution, the early converts fled into Samaria. Today’s reading describes what may be the first-time advance of the gospel across the cultural threshold into Samaria.
Again in this story we hear of Philip! Who was Philip? Philip like Steven was one of the original seven deacons. And true to the deacon’s call, Philip is in a foreign world of Samaria and steps into the middle of a spiritual encounter on behalf of the pioneering evangelization spirit of the church.
The Samaritans were noted for practicing sorcery and magic. They were a society steeped in occult magic and syncretistic religious practice. Syncretistic means they were willing to merge differing and even opposed beliefs systems which in truth were in conflict. Confusion about the truth was subverted not so unlike it is today. Political correctness practiced in our day is syncretistic.
Philip was reaching out, preaching, teaching and healing a people who had an awareness of faith and scripture but lacked a personal encounter with the spirit of truth.
We hear when the apostles heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John who prayed for them that they may receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not fallen on them yet, until the apostles laid hands on them and they received. Why was the Holy Spirit delayed?
The Holy Spirit is the advocate that unites and preserves the unity of the church while the world continuously seeks to create human animosity between peoples like the Jews and Samaritans. The unfolding story of God’s plan reveals the laying of hands through the apostles is the process of the church unifying peoples. The Holy Spirit converts on both sides of the cultural barrier between peoples. The fullness of Holy Spirit seeks to open and reveal Christ through the process of people finding each other. Samaritans and Jewish Christians were assured that the Samaritans were truly regenerate and the spiritual equals of regenerate Jews.
The symbol of the unity of the Church through the Holy Spirit is revealed through the laying on of hands.
So how does this affect me? Back to the mirror in your hand! Listen to 1 Peter again! “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for hope!” The people of our nation and the world are desperate and starving for hope and an encounter with the truth of who they were created to be!
The one looking back in the mirror was created for this day and time. The one looking back in the mirror is the unexpected one who encounters people everyday who thirsts for hope and purpose.
“Do it with gentleness and reverence keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct may themselves be put to shame.” God’s counter to political correctness is the truth!
Yep each one here is called to Go into the world and proclaim the Good News.