Reading 1: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Reading 2: 1 Peter 3:15-18
Gospel: John 14:15-21
My daughter is finishing up eighth grade in the next few weeks. I was driving her to swim practice when she started talking about the latest fashions in her school. She told me how the new trend is to get two or three septum rings. She had to explain to me that these were nose rings piercing the cartilage between the two nostrils.
I’m always hesitant to make fun of these trends. This is not just because I don’t want to be a hypocrite since I spent the 80’s sporting a mullet. It is because I always see in them self-expression. It is people trying to say who they are and, in doing so, why they as people matter.
I see most adults doing the same thing, just through more sophisticated means. We seek to say who we are through where we live, what we drive, how much we make, what politics we hold, and what our children achieve. Even if we know that these don’t ultimately define who we are, they cannot help but make up how we understand ourselves. I coach kids soccer and do it for the kids, but I would be lying if I said that winning and losing didn’t affect me.
Christianity does not do away with these. We are creatures who speak words and seek an understanding of ourselves and our lives. Moreover, this understanding comes from our incarnate reality, through our work in this world. For Christians, the question is what should this work look like?
The Acts of Apostles describes Philip’s work of driving out spirits from “many possessed people”, curing people who were “paralyzed or crippled”, and bringing “great joy in that city.”
The Psalmist calls people to
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”
In his first letter, Peter says believers should be ready to explain the “reason for your hope” and do so “with gentleness and reverence.”
What you find in these readings is Christian discipleship taking the form of helping and healing, gentleness and reverence, hope and joy. These should express who we are.
There is one hitch to Christian self-expression, though, that causes it to be different from the other ways we express ourselves. So much of what we do to communicate who we are – whether it is nose rings, sports records, or job achievements – are things we do. For Christians, the work is not so much the fruit of grit and determination but a response to the God who first approaches us. As Jesus says,
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Thus, the expression of our Christianity is the result of the God who promises “I will come to you.” The disciples knew this God who would not “leave us orphans,” so, in confidence, “they laid hands on them [the people] and they received the Holy Spirit.” God will not leave us because God loves us, and so we respond in love and become beings defined by this love. It is then that we become a people who express ourselves in helping and healing, gentleness and reverence, hope and joy.