Sixth Sunday of Easter - 26th May, 2019

Liturgical Reflection

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 John 17:20-26

“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”

There is so much in our present world to keep us very troubled and afraid …. extreme poverty and starvation, despotic regimes, corruption in so many political spheres, extreme weather events, homelessness and desperate refugees across the globe.  The first reading from Acts highlights the powerful mission of Paul and Barnabas and their extraordinary success with the fervent conversion of so many Gentiles to Christianity.  We must remember that these accounts are post-Pentecost .... at this stage the missioners have been empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit who was sent to enlighten the newly-born Church.

On the other hand, the Gospel reading returns to the night of the “last supper” when Jesus and his followers gathered for the Passover celebration in the upper room.  After Judas has left the group to carry out his betrayal of the Master, Jesus instructs his disciples at length.  They find it difficult to grasp that he must leave them …. it is so often hard to say goodbye to a loved one.  Jesus knows just how lost and afraid his disciples will feel after his death.  He tells them that he must return to the Father who will send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to teach them and remind them of all Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus promises them the gift of peace.  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”  They certainly have no peace on the very next day when Jesus is captured, scourged, tried and eventually crucified.  Apart from John who supports Mary through the events of “Good Friday”, they are all very much afraid.  They will eventually discover, after Pentecost, that neither future persecution nor imprisonment will quench the peace that Jesus gives them.  No persecution will overcome their frailty once they are “filled with the Spirit.”

Down the centuries so many Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have given their lives in loving service of their neighbour, as Jesus instructed.  This is our call.  This is our challenge.  As Verna Holyhead reminds us, Jesus’ Last Supper words are not about absence but about presence … the abiding presence of the Father and the Son with the community of disciples in the power of the Spirit until the end of time.  The Apostles at this last gathering only hear Jesus’ words.  When the risen Jesus again offers his peace and his Spirit-Breath moves over the chaos of their disillusionment and fears, then they will understand. (John 20:19-23) (See Verna Holyhead sgs, With Burning Hearts: Welcoming the Word Year C, p.73).

  • Let us pray that the Church may be attuned to those ways by which the Holy Spirit may lead us to new ways of living the Gospel.
  • Listen to the prompting of the Spirit as you bring to prayer a situation of conflict in need of a peaceful resolution.

Denise Sullivan op