Reading I: Acts 8: 5-8,14-17
Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Reading II: 1 Peter 3: 15-18
Gospel: John 14:15-21
What a blessing the Easter Season is! Spring is beginning to bud in her splendor, we know that we have made it through the cross and resurrection, and Pentecost is near. If we were to stay in our “upper rooms”, this feeling of hope would be easy to catch hold of. Yet, we live in moments that are precariously political and war torn and at times it feels like we are still stuck in a pattern more like death than resurrection. And yet our readings today beckon us out of those hidden rooms and into the light with hope!
The first reading claims that Philip was in Samaria proclaiming the Good News and “with one accord they paid attention.” It is hard to imagine any gathering or any city with today’s political discord, listening “with one accord.” And yet “there was great joy in that city.”
The second reading claims this great joy as a reason for others to believe. Peter is reminding them, “Beloved, always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” This is a different type of evangelization. It is not one that yells out in righteousness “we have the truth”, but rather one that attracts others by our authentic witness to hope. Disciples witness to the Good News with a life of great joy and hope and others come to believe simply through asking, “What is the reason for your hope?” Peter instructed the “Beloved” community to give a response with gentleness and reverence. Martin Luther King Jr. was perhaps drawing on Peter’s term Beloved when he said at a 1956 rally, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform…” To be a beloved community we must act with gentleness and reverence for the other – to reconcile and participate in God’s hope and joy, to open ourselves to transformation.
The Gospel speaks of the promise of the Holy Spirit as an advocate. This reading is taken from John’s telling of the Last Supper. So here we are in the sixth week of Easter, revisiting the moments before Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s a flashback to the moments in that upper room before the chaos of the cross. And much like today, it may be hard to believe that the chaos of the moment might give way to hope and healing. We know that Pentecost is right around the corner, and yet, the promise of an advocate, even today, seems slightly out of reach. We might need to ask ourselves in this moment: What is the reason for my hope? What are the ways the Holy Spirit encourages me to be a witness of hope in the world?
Perhaps the process of synodality that Pope Francis is shepherding us through is exactly what we need at this moment. It is a trust in the movement of the Holy Spirit to lead a dialogue that might make us more authentic as church in the world. At the beginning of the synodal process I hoped for a process where the church would listen to all of the voices, needs and concerns it seemed to be ignoring. But then there was this slow perception percolating that it was not about the church listening to “us” or us listening to the church, but more radically about all of us as the church listening for the movement of the Spirit. We each in our own ways, open our ears to hear the Spirit – to pay attention. If all of us – the church, the hierarchy, the people in the pews, the people who have walked away – if all of us listen with one accord for where the Holy Spirit is leading us and if seek to respond to a world in need with gentleness and reverence and hope, then we must believe there will be great joy! It reminds me of the words to the Zimbabwean traditional hymn, “If you believe and I believe and we together pray, the Holy Spirit must come down and set God’s people free.” May we believe and pray with one accord.
Christina R. Zaker
Director of Field Education and Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry