6 Sunday of Easter, Year A
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1Pet 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
When still on earth, Jesus was present physically and sensibly with his disciples. However, when he left them for heaven, a new presence was necessary as he said: I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always (Jn 14:16). These were the consoling and encouraging words to the disciples. Jesus knew that very soon the Apostles would find themselves alone in the world; they would be exposed to the hatred of the world; they would be persecuted, imprisoned and put to death. Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit was to prepare the Apostles to receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.
His promise to send out his Spirit had to be words of assurance since he never broke his promises. His promise to send the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in the faithful of the early Church. When the Apostles at Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. Peter and John 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. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15-17). Later on, we the faithful received the Holy Spirit when we were confirmed. When baptized, we already received the Holy Spirit. At confirmation, we received the Holy Spirit in a fuller and more abundant way.
God comes to us in his Spirit and remains with us in his Spirit. To be present in the Spirit is the way God is present in the Church and in the Christian. To see in the eye of man, we do not see the Spirit. In order to see in the Spirit, we need the eye of faith. The faith that is enlightened by the Spirit will help us see a reality different from the reality of the world for the reason that grace does not depend on experiment. Neither grace can be perceived by our senses.
When we see a strange phenomenon, that phenomenon may come from the Holy Spirit, or from the devil  or from a magician or from human imagination. Therefore, we need to rely on faith to differentiate which phenomenon is from the Holy Spirit; which is from the devil and which is from human magic or imagination. To speak as such does not mean that there are no longer miracles in our days.
With the eye of faith, we can still see numerous miracles happening in our world and around us. Reading the bible, especially the Acts of the Apostles, we see the activity of the Holy Spirit at work in the apostles and in the early church. The power of the Holy Spirit has changed the apostles from timid followers into enthusiastic instruments of the Gospel. The grace of the Holy Spirit also acted upon the hearers, who were ready to accept the faith in Jesus Christ and did apostolic works for the kingdom of God. It is the same Spirit that, moves the faithful to respond to Jesus Compared to the way of life and the apostolic activities of the early Christians, some people think their era is not
era of the Holy Spirit, because they have not experienced the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and they have not seen great wonders of the Holy Spirit at work in the church. If people say, their era is not the era of the Holy Spirit, then Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit would be an empty promise or it would mean the Holy Spirit would come for a certain period of time and then go away, and then come back again. Theologically speaking, that is not the case. Scripture tells us God is always faithful to his covenant with humankind.
When we do not see the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, it is because we put obstacles in our lives. Obstacles we are talking about here are sins and vices. We do not see the activity of the Holy Spirit at work in us because we have stifled the activity of the Holy Spirit. Besides, Catholics are familiar with concrete images. We often see the statue of Jesus in his human figure with authority, and the statute of Mary, graceful and lovely.
Yet we do not see any statue of the Holy Spirit in a human figure. We only see the Holy Spirit symbolically, as in a figure of a dove or fire. Therefore, it is hard for us to figure out the Holy Spirit because we do not get used to what is abstract. It is also hard for us to pray to the Holy Spirit in abstract. So today let us be assured that every era is the era of the Holy Spirit if we know how to open ourselves to the Spirit of God and cooperate with his grace by responding to God's everyday invitation in our everyday life.
A prayer for the grace of the Holy Spirit:
O risen Christ, we thank you for having revealed to us
the third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
We ask you to fulfill your promise to send your Spirit
Grant that I may love you by keeping your commandments
by getting rid of obstacles from my life
so that the grace of the Holy Spirit may activate
my heart, my soul and my life.
Help me recognize where your Spirit is. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trọng
. Carr, W.M. (ed). Instructions for Lectors and Commentators. Quincy, Illinois: Sunday Missal Service, May 1987. p. 22.