Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday word, 27 Apr 2008

Easter Sunday6 (27 Apr 2008) Ac 8.5-8,14-17; Ps 66; 1Pt 3.15-18; Jn 14. 15-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
From 1st to 21st Century

The daily ministry of the first apostles involved preaching, that is, announcing risen Jesus to others by telling how they experienced him from the days he chose them to after his resurrection. They announced their word to unbelievers in the Temple and they nurtured the word among believers at table.

However, their world of 1st-century Palestine divided genders strictly. Discussion among men took place in public spaces. Women spoke in homes and in places where they gathered, for example, to get water for their homes or washed clothes. They also ate separately: men with boys older than puberty; and women with girls and all boys younger than the age of puberty. The apostles’ solution was to deputize other ministers of the word--deacons--who could go to other places than the temple to make known risen Jesus. We come upon one of them, Philip, who left Jerusalem for nearby Samaria.

The activity was centered first in Jerusalem, as Jesus had told the apostles, “wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”/1/

Empowered by Holy Spirit, Philip was extraordinarily successful. This agent of Jesus’ Spirit visited the age-old enemies of the people of Judaea and proclaimed the risen Jesus. They were persuaded by his preaching and they were convinced by the signs he was doing. Jesus told the apostles that they would do greater works than him. Jesus convinced a Samaritan woman, but Philip convinced an entire Samaritan city!

The outward movement from Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth gave birth to church and validated Jesus’ words that his followers would do greater works than he did. Pope Benedict reminded us on his visit to the United States that “increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father” are the shape these greater works have in our times./2/

Agents of Jesus’ Holy Spirit increase “fraternity and solidarity; they cultivate growth in mutual respect” as they allow Holy Spirit to work through them. While we are crucial in advancing
the gospel, Holy Spirit works through all people of good will.

Holy Spirit is not confined to our rituals nor do they control Holy Spirit. Fellowship with the apostles guaranteed that. Hence those lines are not at all insignificant: ...when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [Peter and John] laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Their hand-laying symbolized the believer’s communion.

The Greek word we translate with fallen means that Holy Spirit takes possession of us, and we are inspired and impelled by Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit continues to use our humanity, to heal our limitations, to clarify our vision and to renew our “trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father” and risen Jesus, who are the source of Holy Spirit. Sometimes we emphasize our humanity over the Spirit’s gifts. The Spirit’s gifts work through and enhance our humanity.

Our parish discernment, years in planning, to renovate our buildings calls us to be more confident agent’s of Holy Spirit. “We believe that, as a Spirit-filled community we must promote the spiritual, liturgical, evangelical educational and ecumenical growth of our family of faith. We pledge ourselves to bring God’s Word to the world in which we live and to enliven”/3/ it. Those words of our parish Mission Statement echo the life and work of Philip. They echo Jesus’ promise that his Spirit of truth is with us always. University Heights is not hostile territory; it does need our efforts and support to bring ourselves and the gospel into the 21st century.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, let go your anxieties and concerns in the presence of the Trinity, who creates you at each moment with love. Ask for the grace to see with fresh vision and to feel with stronger devotion your “renewed trust and confidence in God.” Ask God to place you with Jesus. Converse with Jesus about your solidarity with him and with your sister- and brother parishioners so that you may give clearer witness to his gospel and help Gesu parish to do the same. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Saying it reminds us that we both announce and promote the kingdom to come.
1. Acts 1.4-8
2. Farewell Ceremony, John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport, New York, 20 April 2008.
3. Gesu Parish Mission Statement printed on the cover of each weekly bulletin.

Wiki-image of icon of St. Philip is in the public domain.

No comments: