"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
May 29: Sixth Sunday of Easter
• Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
With the laying on of hands the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit, becoming fully initiated into the Church. The apostles’ presence in Samaria was an important milestone in the Church’s mission to all nations (Acts 1:8) and it ratified the Samaritans’ communion with the apostles and the mother Church at Jerusalem.
1 Peter was probably written from Rome during the first, great persecution of Christians under Nero around A.D. 64. In many places throughout the empire Christians were imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. Peter wrote the letter to encourage them.
In the verse immediately preceding this week’s second reading he tells them: “Even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid!” Then he says, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
The Gospel reading is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse during the Last Supper. Notice the Trinitarian structure: The Spirit will be given to the disciples by the Father in response to the prayer of the Son. The Ascension of Jesus, which we celebrate next Sunday, does not represent his departure and absence from the Church. Rather, it signifies his presence in the Church in a new and higher way—a way made possible through the Holy Spirit.
Key verse: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Spirit of truth, the other Paraclete, will be given by the Father in answer to Jesus’ prayer; he will be sent by the Father in Jesus’ name; and Jesus will send him from the Father’s side, since he comes from the Father. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ. He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment” (No. 729).
Pope Benedict XVI: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires. An ‘adult’ faith (however) is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth” (Homily, April 18, 2005).
Life application: In some parts of the world, Christians are intimidated, harassed, beaten and sometimes even killed just because they are Christians. We may not suffer violent persecution, but in society where “the dictatorship of relativism” overshadows everything, bearing witness to the truth, even the very idea of truth, can be challenging. The world cannot accept the truth because truth exposes falsehood and shows sin for what it is. But we shouldn’t be afraid to bear witness to the truth because the “Advocate, the Spirit of truth” is always with us.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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