Almost always I accept the selection of the readings for the Mass without question. The liturgists have a good reason for their choice, I tell myself.
But today, while reflecting on the readings for May 25, a question arose: just what guides the choice for the selections for a Sunday, anyway? Not expecting an answer, the mere posing of the question can soothe the restless mind.
'Peter and John went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.'
But should any stirring of curiosity linger, an impertinent response can pop up, "Maybe the Holy Spirit chose them." Despite the whiff of presumption in those words, the refined content of today's readings comes close to validating that proposition.
The First Reading from Acts tells of the work of the apostle Philip in the city of Samaria. Firm in his belief, he brims with confidence in what he has learned from Jesus. His life of teaching, sacrifice and love have filled Philip with faith and he has come to Samaria to share it in dramatic manner.
The Samaritans took joy when they witnessed him in action – the expulsion of demons, the cure of "many others who were paralyzed or lame" – all proclaimed in the name and manner of Jesus himself.
Philip so convinced the people that they, men and women, were baptized. Learning of this good news, Peter and John went to Samaria to assure the people in their faith by the laying on of hands, confirming them as "they received the Holy Spirit."
In the Second Reading, in a tender passage, Peter urges the deep acceptance of Christ as Lord. He recognizes the consequence of this commitment – how it would affect people. Their friends would see such a person as one filled with hope.
The behaviour of such hopeful people would cause others to wonder and enquire about the source of this uplifting disposition. Peter's counsel urges the persons so inspired to answer readily because of their acceptance of Christ as Lord.
Thinking about that counsel, brings to mind individuals of my acquaintance who would account for their outlook on life in that very way. I have such a man in my circle of friends, who when asked the conventional "How are you?" replies, "I'm happy!" He makes people glad that they asked.
In the Gospel reading, John tells of Jesus' discourse to his disciples on Love: "If you love me you will keep my commandments."
Jesus explains the relationship between love for him, and, (though the word seems curiously out of place) the "dynamic" of love between him, the Father and the disciples to whom he speaks.
Earlier, I mused on the choice of the readings for this Sunday and ventured the impertinent suggestion that the Holy Spirit might have chosen them.
Now I think I should not apologize for that because I can see the guidance of the Holy Spirit leading to 1 Corinthians where St. Paul writes, "There are three things that will last forever, faith, hope and love."
We find them just so, "lasting forever" in the readings for today.
(Ralph Himsl: firstname.lastname@example.org)