The Bishops Homily – 6th Sunday Of Easter

6th Sunday Of Easter
Acts 8: 5-8; 14-17
I Pet. 3: 15-18
John 14: 15-21

INTRODUCTION: Throughout the Easter Season, we have the magnificent opportunity to listen to the Acts of the Apostles even daily as the first Reading. As everyone knows, Acts is the second volume and Luke’s Gospel is the first volume. That is why the two Books are treated thematically as Luke-Acts.

(1) The Acts opens with this instruction from the Lord Jesus: “. . . Not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak.” (Acts 1: 4) “Huwag muna kayong aalis sa Jerusalem. Sa halip, hintayin ninyo roon ang ipinangako ng Ama na sinabi ko na sa inyo.” Jesus is speaking here about the promised Holy Spirit whom the Gospel today calls “Advocate” “Tagapagtanggol” (John 14: 16). Acts continues: “John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1: 5) “Si Juan ay nagbautismo sa tubig, ngunit di na magtatagal at babautismuhan kayo sa Espiritu Santo.” Jesus refers here to the Holy Spirit as the Love that links together the Father and the Son that will descend upon the Apostles and equipped them for their work. What work? How this Jesus of Nazareth became gradually the Victorious King of the Universe: how his power is spreading all over the world precisely through the Acts of the Apostle. The Spirit of Jesus and the Father cannot be the spirit of hatred and violence which Augustine calls the “libido dominandi” but is the Spirit of Love on the march like an Army eager to engage the world with his power of persuasive speech (tongues of fire) as an Advocate does. This is the foreshadowing of a conquering Church or a Church on the march not by domination but by spirit-filled speech. Re-read the Acts in this light of how this Victorious Church goes about its work. On that first day of Pentecost 3000 were baptized. Soon they were met with opposition first with the religious and later by the political establishments and brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter is imprisoned; James is beheaded; Stephen is stoned to death. A decade or so later Peter and Paul are both murdered. This’s the story of the Army on the March fighting the enemy not by dominance but by Love.

(2) Precisely because of the fierce persecution, many of the 3000 converts were forced to leave Jerusalem and where they escaped they spread the seed of faith. This is the context of our reading today from Acts 8. Philip who was one of the seven Deacons set out for Samaria where he practiced his power of speech as a preacher first and foremost but also the power of his deeds as an extraordinary healer and exorcist. This is common in the history of evangelism up and down the centuries.

(3) “Now 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.” (Acts 8: 14-15) “Nang mabalitaan ng mga apostol na nasa Jerusalem na tinanggap ng mga Samaritano ang Salita ng Diyos, sinugo nila roon sina Pedro at Juan. Pagdating doon, ipinanalangin nila ang mga Samaritano upang sila’y tumanggap din ng Espiritu Santo, sapagkat hindi pa ito bumababa sa kaninuman sa kanila.” Peter and John are called in after Deacon Philip had preached to converts in Samaria to facilitate or preside over the descent of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Theology teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given in Baptism but are stirred up or brought to life at Confirmation. This two-steps process is imitated up to the present when the bishop goes to the parish some years later to facilitate the gifts of the Holy Spirit after one’s Baptism. The gifts can be extraordinary like tongues or healing or as ordinary as administration, kindness, or being a lay Catechist, etc. but all these exist for the sake of equipping the Army to extend the sovereign and authority of Jesus.

CONCLUSION: Vatican II had a name for this process and it is the Universal Call to Holiness. Everyone is called to fight but no fear because of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. Men like Philip long ago and the present men and women of today have the same mission of the Church up and down the ages to extend the sovereignty of Jesus and these are still Acts of the Apostles!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches