Sixth Sunday of Easter
St. Elizabeth’s, 17 May 2020
Readings for the sixth Sunday of Easter in year A
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
My thoughts go back to last Wednesday when some of us met to look at what may happen after the easing of the current lockdown. We spoke about what we can do when more people can come and walk around and we decided to prepare material for reflective walks in the grounds. We also talked about what needs to be put in place when permission is given to open the church. We looked at possible implications of social distancing for public worship and also what preparations need to be made before residential retreats can resume.
It was a helpful meeting but at the end of it we realised that more discernment is needed and others will also need to be involved in this process. However, all of this is done so that we are prepared for the time when restrictions are lifted so that things can be put into place if and when possible.
It looks like this approach is also favoured in today’s words from the first letter of St. Peter: ‘… always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have…’.
These words were not written to people living under restrictions following an outbreak of Covid-19; they were written to a dispersed community of Christians in the first century AD who tried to live their lives in a hostile environment where their faith and way of life were questioned and challenged.
In the letter we find words of encouragement and support to help people to be faithful as followers of Christ. It is in this context we find the prompt to be prepared and have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope you all have.
Through today’s reading this invitation is also addressed to us and we may ask ourselves questions like: ‘what is the hope that I have?’ What is it that keeps me going and gives focus in life? What motivates me and makes me get up in the morning? These can be challenging questions during these days when many lives have been turned upside down and familiar routines disturbed.
I am afraid the letter of Peter doesn’t give a detailed answer to this. Everyone needs to find his or her own response to the question about the hope she or he has, simply because it is personal.
Nevertheless the letter does offer some orientation. Amongst other things, the author tells us that the future is held in God’s hand. God surrounds us and the world with his love, mercy and compassion. In this view somehow all will be well. This offers reason for hope.
The letter invites the reader to keep that in mind, even though we may experience suffering and hardship. Somehow the Lord is present in it all. And thus we are invited to maintain our dignity, whatever our situation may be. And however others treat us, it is best to approach them with respect and do so with a good conscience. It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong. Living a life of integrity offers the best witness of a life in Christ and it gives honour to God.
Quite a bit of food for thought… But to see and live life in this light can be challenging and we may need help to find our way on this journey of following the Lord. In the other readings of today we hear about the Helper whom Jesus promises to send in his name, the Holy Spirit, who will empower us, strengthen us and comfort us on our journey of discipleship. We are not left alone.
During these weeks leading to Pentecost our prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit may be our special intention and it may also help us to be united in prayer as a dispersed community:
Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise
and ever to rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.