Perhaps as a spiritual exercise we could be a “Samaritan for a day.” Be especially alert for events and people that give hope and light. Be eager to reach out for the unfamiliar and new that show promise. And above all, be grateful for the gifts that God gives. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

God's Word on Sunday: Power of God overcomes all barriers

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  • May 10, 2020

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17 (Year A) Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

Samaria must have been quite a sight. Demons shrieking, the paralyzed and lame regaining their strength and mobility, and countless other signs and wonders amazed the multitudes. Many were moved to accept the word of God and be baptized.

The Samaritans and Jews did not have much good to say about each other, each regarding the other with hostility and contempt. But when evidence of God’s presence and power appeared on the scene, all such distinctions and barriers were promptly forgotten.

The Samaritans fare well in the New Testament — they are often portrayed as the ones who truly “get it” and who are open to God’s word. They were willing to believe on the basis of their experience rather than what others had told them.

Often there are advantages to having an outsider status. It can make one more of a seeker and perhaps more sensitive to things that offer a glimmer of hope. Rigidity, labelling and building barriers are signs of defensiveness that usually indicate fear and insecurity. In the religious sphere it can signify a lack of true understanding and closeness to God.

Those who are genuinely close to the divine source do not persecute, vilify and exclude. Peter and John had a surprise for them: the Holy Spirit. The text informs us they had “only” been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. With the imposition of hands, they received the Spirit.

Obviously, baptism was done a bit differently in the early Christian communities and sacramental theology was just beginning to develop. This shows us that things have not always been exactly the same, and that theology develops and changes over time. One thing does remain the same: the presence of Christ in the community and in the hearts of believers.

Perhaps as a spiritual exercise we could be a “Samaritan for a day.” Be especially alert for events and people that give hope and light. Be eager to reach out for the unfamiliar and new that show promise. And above all, be grateful for the gifts that God gives.

How do we sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts? It is a deceptively simple question, but it lies at the very core of our faith and spirituality.

We begin by purifying our hearts of malice, greed, hatred, resentment, fear and lust. We cannot hold those things in our hearts and pretend to be honouring Christ or engaging in true worship.

Cleansing of the heart is a lifelong undertaking, so why not begin today?

In place of these negative feelings and thoughts, we can substitute compassion, mercy, forgiveness, generosity and gentleness, all the while focusing on Christ as the centre of our life. This is the deepest and most powerful form of worship and it will be noticed by others.

Note that the letter tells us to be prepared to explain the cause of our hope and joy. This is the most convincing form of evangelism — making others wish that they had what you have.

St. Ignatius of Loyola insisted that love is always manifested in deeds. Love does not consist of warm feelings and sentiments, for it is a call to action. Nowhere is this more important than in our relationship with Jesus.

If we say that we love the Lord, we need to show that love in our words, thoughts and deeds. This is obeying His twofold commandment that He gives in John’s Gospel: believing that Jesus is the One sent from above and ordering one’s life by that conviction; and humbly loving and serving others.

There are no substitutes or shortcuts. This is the only way we remain connected to Jesus and to the Father. It is how we know and experience God.

Those who obey the commandments of Jesus will receive the Paraclete — John’s term for the Holy Spirit — to be the continuing presence of Jesus. Since it is the Spirit of truth, we will experience the world in a quite different way.

Just as Jesus dwells in the Father, so will He dwell in us. And just as Jesus lives, so will we live. We will experience God to the degree that our hearts and minds are in harmony with God.

Jesus holds back nothing from those who obey His commandments and walk in His ways.

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