A Graduate School of Theology and Ministry

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

May 14, 2023

Lectionary 55

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

1 Pet 3:15-18

John 14:15-21

Possible preaching themes:

  • What is authentic joy (drawing on 1st reading and the Psalm)
  • The laying on of hands and the power of touch (referencing the first reading)
  • Companioning as a form of discipleship (drawing on the gospel)

Possible scientific resources:

  • Companioning and Friendship
    • The scientific article “Companion Animal Ownership and Human Well-Being in a Metropolis,” explores how companion animals not only contribute to the well-being of owners, but also may enhance general social connectedness to others.
    • Social Relationships and Health” provides an overview of research and opinions about the importance of social relationships for human health.
    • Research shows that good relationships actually help people live longer, and social isolation provides the same or even more risk of morality than smoking, alcoholic consumption, and obesity.

A homily outline on divine-human companionship

  • Attorney or friend?
    • In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises his followers an “advocate,” language which requires some excavating.
    • The first English translation of the Bible for Catholics was the Douay-Rheims Bible, which translated this word as “paraclete” – language familiar to some.
      • While certainly obscure in English, the paraclete language does bring us close to its Greek root paráklētos, which had a notable legal slant in its ancient usage.
    • A paráklētos was an advocate, but largely in the sense of a legal aid, i.e.
      • someone who pleads a case before a judge; literally, a legal defense.
    • Increasingly in our society it seems that folks need the help of legal defense, as the U.S. is regularly acknowledged as the most litigious society in the world.
    • Jesus had his own run-ins with the law, both religious and civic
      • Scribes were specialists in the law, whom Jesus regularly confronted,
      • in his final days Jesus stood trial before the Jewish judicial body known as the Sanhedrin,
      • and Pilate was the provincial governor who ultimately condemned him to death.
    • He also seemed to understand that his own followers were going to be similarly persecuted
    • While many of his followers probably could have benefited from some legal aid, Jesus seems to be offering a different kind of advocate; one still important to believers today. 
  • The Power of companioning
    • It is well recognized that, like many other species, human beings are social animals who rely on cooperation to survive and thrive.
    • The survival aspect of social collaboration has long been recognized.
    • More recently, however, researchers are exploring the importance of companionship for our physical and mental well-being.
    • The opposite of companionship is isolation, whose destructive effects are so widely accepted that it is often used as a form of punishment or torture.
    • Humans require friends and companions if they are to flourish and not simply exist.
    • Research demonstrates that quality friends are just as important as diet and exercise.
      • Such social connections are linked to lower blood pressure
      • Enable us to maintain lower body fat
      • and contribute to a reduced risk of diabetes.
    • Maybe most shocking is the data that having healthy relationships actually helps us live longer.
    • We crave companionship so much that we have even domesticated other species so that they can fulfill this fundamental human need.
  • Friendship in Christ
    • Jesus was an unusual Rabbi in many respects.
    • One was that his disciples were not to be his servants but friends and collaborators in bringing about his vision of God’s reign.
    • It is that lens which allows us to understand the enduring gift of Jesus’ spirit promised to us in today’s gospel.
    • This passage is placed in Jesus’ long last supper discourse in John,
      • which is written in the style of a last will and testament by someone whose life was coming to an end.
    • Aware of his impending death, Jesus assures his followers that his friendship will not end with his earthly death.
    • Friendship in his Spirit is planted here as a resurrectional seed that will sustain and accompany his followers through every joy and trial.
  • Accompaniment as ministry
    • The Pentecost story in the book of Acts relates the gift of God’s Spirit as an unmediated, direct act of God.
    • Today’s first reading, however, demonstrates that this same Spirit is mediated through the companioning of disciples.
    • Furthermore, this gift of the spirit is mediated through a very human but exceedingly important act: through the gift of touch.
    • The laying on of hands is not simply some obtuse ritual action, restricted to ordinations, absolutions or exorcisms.
    • Rather it is one of the many ways that the church extends a caress to believers
      • related to anointings
      • blessings
      • and even the sign of peace.
  • The take-away
    • The companionship of Jesus’ Spirit may seem absent to some
    • but it is as close as the nearest disciple
    • who is willing to reveal the presence in friendship
    • and the respectful gift of a gracious human touch as the very caresses of God in Christ.


Liturgical: Advent
Topic: Companionship

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