One of the things I do, obviously, is to look closely at the Scriptures that we'll hear at Mass.
(A little known fact: the priest or deacon giving the homily does not have to work from the Scriptures, although that's encouraged. I can't recall just now where, but I think in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, it makes clear that the homily can draw from the readings, the prayers of Mass, the season or feast of the day.)
...One of the things I will do with the readings is to examine them closely for any key words or terms that may warrant further explanation; I may look up some commentary on the passages to understand them better. And then sometimes, I will write out my own notes, as a way to sort my thoughts.
That's what I did last week.
And today, as I began sorting my thoughts for the coming weekend, I found my notes from last week. If you care to, you can compare these notes with last week's homily. Hint: they are very different. Feel free to ask about that if you wish.
Here are my notes:
This is the deacon Philip, who was one of seven Greek-speaking deacons ordained by the apostles to share in their ministry. The irony – which Acts really illustrates well – is that while the Apostles claimed they needed the deacons to take care of “waiting tables”—i.e., caring for the material needs of the widows—while the Apostles focused on preaching and sanctifying, what actually happens is the deacons are out front with preaching and baptizing, and the Apostles have to catch up!
The mention of Samaritans is important.
What’s happening in Acts is what is outlined by the Lord’s words when he ascended – as described at the beginning: You will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth. And the deacons lead the way! I wonder what Peter and John were thinking as they scurried down there.
It’s also important because barriers are being crossed. Ironically, as Pope Francis visits these very places, there are new barriers. In the time of the Apostles, the barriers were race and religion. The Samaritans were the descendants of Jews who mixed with Gentiles who came into the land during a time of exile. So when those Jews who were driven out, returned, they didn’t look so favorably on the Samaritans. Not only that, the Samaritans’ form of worship deviated in significant ways from what God had told Moses. So here are the Jews who are being faithful, and here are those wayward Samaritans. The divisions were both faith and race.
It says the crowds “paid attention” to Philip’s message about our Lord. In this chapter of Acts, there’s more detail: there is a story of a magician named Simon, who had his own version of signs and wonders. The people were fascinated by that. But when Philip shows up, Simon is astounded: perhaps because he realizes that Philip isn’t doing “tricks”; rather, God’s power is at work.
Note what Saint Peter says:
Christ in your hearts…be ready to explain your faith…be ready to be maligned…and keep a good conscience, so that the only thing anyone can complain about is…the good you do.
Love…Commandments…Father…Advocate…Holy Spirit…remain in me, I in you.
The world cannot accept the Holy Spirit—because it doesn’t “see” or “know” him.
We can’t see the Holy Spirit—but we can and do KNOW him. He’s with us.