This Sunday, the first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. In this account, Luke shares the miraculous actions of the Evangelist, Philip. Philip, you may remember from last Sunday’s reading, was one of the seven deacons appointed to serve the poor in the early Christian church. Philip served the needy and, also preached the Word of God. He was a dynamic evangelist and traveled to Samaria, an area area in central Palestine. In this place, he brought healing to the possessed and to the paralyzed. Luke notes,” there was great joy in that city”. Do you agree, if we had been in Philip’s midst, would we not have been filled with happiness to witness healing of illnesses, both physical and spiritual! Can you put yourself in place of the Samarians? Can you imagine in your mind’s eye, how wonderful it would be, to have Philip walk down Asbury Avenue, healing and preaching to the residents of Ocean City? Hearing Philip the Evangelist sharing the Good News of our God and Savior! I think it would be life changing, yes? What would our reaction be? Surprise? Skepticism? Relief? Would “great joy “come to Ocean City, as it did to Samaria? And after our encounter with Philip, would we open our souls and hearts to Jesus? And would we remember to heed the words of 1 Peter 3:15 in the second reading, “give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope”? Could a new Acts of the Apostles, set in 2020, be written about us, to share our lives of evangelization and service toward others? I think, I have given myself pause for reflection! I do believe many of our Congregants are faith-filled disciples, people who share love and give witness to Jesus in their lives. But, as Pope Francis has said, “Even for a Christian, knowing how to love is never acquired once and for all. We must begin anew everyday.” To help us live in Christian love, Jesus gives us the gift of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel reading from John, Jesus is in the Upper Room, sharing the Last Supper, and speaking some of His very last thoughts with the Apostles. What are His words on the eve of His murder? He speaks not of self pity, but articulates words of hope! He affirms that the Commandments are the guiding principles of living a life of Christian love. Additionally, on this Holy Thursday night, Jesus has asked His Father to send the Holy Spirit, so “we are not left as orphans.” This Holy Spirit can dwell in us and assist us to be more like Philip. Perhaps this prayer from Saint Augustine can poetically state our desire for assistance to live a life of a follower of Jesus.
“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.” St. Augustine