May 9: Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C
Readings: Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Rev 21:10-14,22-23; Jn 14:23-29
The readings of this Sunday focus our attention on what in the end keeps the Church united or divided. Jesus leaves for his disciples three tools that they will use in times of crisis that will certainly confront the Church: faithfulness to his word; the gift of the Holy Spirit; and the gift of peace. All three help his followers to discern the signs of the times, particularly in times of crisis, in order to preserve the unity of the Church, maintained down the centuries. The Acts of the Apostles reminds us, that such unity and harmony could have easily been wrecked by dissent, scandal and disagreements. One of the problems in the Apostolic Church involved a serious controversy in Antioch between some new converts from Judaism to Christianity demanding that Gentile converts had to keep the Mosaic Law in order to be saved. The controversy led to the first General Council of the Church in Jerusalem. The decision of the Apostles and the Elders was conveyed in writing to Antioch, in order to preserve unity and restore harmony and peace. The Apostles and Elders reached such a decision through a process of discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges his disciples and us of today to make use of the three tools that he leaves for us. He challenges us to be faithful: “Anyone who love me will be true to my word.” We find the word of Jesus Christ in Scripture and Tradition. We can only be secure if we hold onto that word. The second tool that Jesus gives us is the Holy Spirit who is still at work in a special way through the teaching office of the Church. The same Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church today, in discerning the complex pastoral situations the Church must face today. The third tool or gift that Jesus gives his disciples is peace: “My peace is my gift to you...not as the world gives peace.” The world defines peace in terms of the absence of war, pain and conflict, but that kind of peace can be destroyed by a single terrorist; by one single bomb or bullet. It does not last. Jesus Christ is the only lasting peace. In the last decade, Regional Synods of Bishops took place in Rome to discern under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the pastoral situation of the Church in each region today. What happened at the Council of Jerusalem is an important example for what the Church in each region of the world needs to do today to implement the decisions of its Regional Synod of Bishops at various levels. At all levels of Church life we are called upon to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. But above all the most urgent gift we need is peace, not in terms of the absence of war in the world, but in terms of a restored and renewed relationship with God in the new life we have received in Christ through the Church. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Jesus calls all of us to be faithful and true to his word in order to be secure in God’s truth in today’s secular mentality; 2) We are invited to rely on the Holy Spirit in our efforts of bringing about reconciliation in our families, parish communities, our dioceses, and in our places of work. 3) The liturgy we celebrate today gives us a sense of that restored and renewed relationship with God in the new life we have received in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, leading to true peace and unity in Christ.
©2010 John S. Mbinda