The first reading at Mass on Sunday comes again from the Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament book that, during Easter, supplants the Old Testament reading at Sunday Mass.
Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
The tension between Jews and Samaritans seems to have been a significant one. Thus the oppositions set up in the parable of the Good Samaritan between key figures from the Jewish religious establishment, and the Samaritan traveller (merchant?); and also the exceptional nature and therefore the frisson of the encounter between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, that was heard on the 3rd Sunday of Lent.
Jesus, in his person and in his teaching, becomes a place for reconciliation between Jew and Samaritan.
But as we surely know prejudice and suspicion have a way of lingering long after we have ‘learnt better’ When Philip goes to Samaria, he is surely going to a place that is looked upon suspiciously by many of his acquaintance, and that must have seemed – at least to them – unpromising territory for the flourishing of gospel life.
Yet how inhospitable the ‘obvious’ place of Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee had proved. And how open to the gospel the people of Samaria show themselves to be.
- Where is the gospel preached today and where is it not?
- Where is it heard today and where is it not?
- When do you find it easier to hear and respond to God’s word?
Pray for Pope Francis as he prepares for his visit to the Holy Land.
Where it exists may suspicion and fear between Christians, Jews and Muslims be replaced by a new and mutual trusting in the love and mercy of God.
Through his words and actions may Pope Francis inspire still more to commit themselves to love of neighbour, as well as love of God.
- A view from the summit of Mount Gerizim, down to modern day Nablus – the centre of biblical Samaria. (c) Allen Morris
- A tapestry of the Holy Spirit, inspiring the Church. Photograph (c) Allen Morris