6th Sunday of Easter. Year A. Bible Study: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, Psalm 66, 1st Peter 3:15-18 and John 14:15-21
“I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
Last Sunday, we heard Jesus say: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me, in my Father’s house are many rooms.” (John 14:1-2) Today, Jesus continues His message of Hope and Assurance, this time introducing the Holy Spirit; the Counsellor, the Spirit of Truth, the indwelling presence of God in the life of the believer.
In today’s first reading, we see in very practical terms, the action of Holy Spirit at work in Philip while he proclaimed Christ to the Christians of Samaria. This mission was so successful that news of it reached the Apostles in Jerusalem who then sent Peter and John to lay hands on the Christian converts for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
As we gradually approach the Feast of Pentecost, our readings today present an urgent call upon us to begin or rather intensify our prayers for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As Jesus noted, the truth is that it is not everybody that can receive the Holy Spirit. Moreover, our first reading clearly shows that it is possible to be a Christian yet lacking the Holy Spirit.
Of course, it should not surprise us that there are some Christians today who do not even know the Holy Spirit. So the question is: “How do we prepare for the Holy Spirit?” This brings us to our lessons for today.
1. The Holy Spirit is the Counsellor.
Who is a counsellor? Google defines a counsellor as: “A person who is trained to give guidance on personal or psychological problems. A senior officer in the diplomatic service.” If we apply this definition to the Holy Spirit, it means that when we are troubled, afraid or depressed, we must call on the Holy Spirit. Note that at the very beginning of this passage, Jesus said: “Let not your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:1) As a Counsellor, the Holy Spirit comforts us and advises us on what to do when we are in any kind of crisis. Have I been consulting the counsel of the Holy Spirit? What stops me from beginning today?
2. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.
To really grasp the full implication of this statement, let us consider what Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil…He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Just as it is not possible for light and darkness to be in the same place at the same time, lies and truth cannot coexist in us.
One clear sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christian is his/her commitment to speaking the truth at all times. Beware of aligning yourself with the devil through telling of lies. As St. Peter admonishes us in our second reading: “keep your conscience clear… it is better to suffer for doing right (speaking the truth) than for doing wrong.” Do not be afraid of what anyone would do to you, just be truthful.
Another dimension of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth is that He helps us to know certain things that the ordinary eye cannot see. That is to say, the Holy Spirit inspires us, whispering to our hearts deep truths that science cannot reveal. St. Paul writing to Timothy mentions the Holy Spirit as the true author of the Bible when he said: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Trying to understand the Bible? Just call on the Holy Spirit and He will show you everything.
3. The Holy Spirit is not for Everybody.
As Jesus puts it: “… the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17) This statement of Jesus is the very reason why the world hates Christians. To possess the Holy Spirit is to have a completely different mind from the world. St. Paul makes the point clearer when he noted: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8).
Sadly, it is possible to be a Christian and still have a worldly mind (set on the flesh). This is why some of us are so neck-deep in sin and far from God spiritually; why we so often feel empty deep inside our hearts. The Holy Spirit is not a certificate one gets upon the completion of Confirmation Classes. This is where many of us Catholics get it wrong. Having attended a rigorous catechism class, we tend to relax. We stop reading our Bibles, we become cold within and prayer becomes a burden of sorts.
Dear friends, now is the time to do as St. Paul said to Timothy: “rekindle (fan into flames) the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Have you been living in darkness? Wake up! Call on the Holy Spirit.
4. Speaking in Tongues is Not the Only Manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
In our day and time, speaking in tongues has become like the signature symbol of the “prayerful” Christian. To possess the Holy Spirit is to have God living inside you and Jesus gave us the secret in today’s Gospel passage: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21).
If there should be any yardstick for measuring whether or not a person has the Holy Spirit, it should be how they keep God’s commandments; the kind of things they do especially in secret, how they love their neighbours and how they treat their enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:45).
If you have the Holy Spirit in you, you begin to reflect Christ-like an image is reflected in a mirror. It would be impossible for anyone to encounter you and not feel this Divine Presence radiating from within you. You don’t have to shout or try to prove anything. The Holy Spirit in you will do all the work. This is what we see in Philip in our first reading. Great things happen when the Holy Spirit is in us.
Another sign of the Holy Spirit is gentleness. St. Peter says in today second reading: “Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15). It is not in our nature as Christians to be issuing curses or fighting with others in the name of winning souls for God.
If you need a million dollars right now, what would you do? Wouldn’t you ask, wouldn’t you be willing to work hard night and day towards it? Wouldn’t you be willing to inconvenience yourself and labour hard till you get it? Wouldn’t you rather go without food for days and engage in as many businesses as possible to get the money? Why not apply all of these into seeking the Holy Spirit?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, make my heart ready for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, transform me from inside out, draw me nearer to you. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.