Acts 8:5 – 8, 14 – 17, 1 Peter 3: 15 – 18, John 14: 15 – 21
This Sunday brings us to the final weeks of Easter. It is a transitional time in terms of liturgy and season. The feast of the Ascension, next Thursday, traditionally marks the Rogation days, when we petition a blessing upon the springtime planting in the fields and pray to the Lord of the harvest to bless our crops. We ask for a blessing on ourselves, and pray to the same Lord of the harvest to deepen our Easter joy.
The readings this Sunday are well integrated, they speak of new life, whether it’s through water, the Spirit or the Word. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles focuses on the coming of the Spirit to new converts and how the imposition of hands completes the initiation of the new converts.
The Second Reading, indicates that baptism initiates a person into the death and resurrection of Jesus and that the destiny of all believers is assured by living according to the Spirit. The Gospel brings us back to the Last Supper discourse, when Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church until the end of time.
My attention has been drawn to the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles which these weeks are full of Easter joy and the excitement of new beginnings. Philip had a heart for evangelism, and left Jerusalem to preach the good news up north in Samaria. There he proclaimed Christ to all whom he met. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what he had to say. When they heard his message they were spell bound, for they saw the signs and wonders he performed. There was great joy in that city.
At the same time, when Philip went to Samaria, preached and made converts, he baptized them, in the name of the Lord Jesus. But none of them received the Holy Spirit. It was not until Peter and John came from Jerusalem and laid hands on them that they received the Spirit. Today baptism by the power of the Spirit, initiates us into Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection. Christian baptism also symbolizes repentance, cleansing, and commitment.
Our Acts reading tells us that when Peter and John laid hands on the new converts they received the Holy Spirit. This ritual of the laying on of hands is very powerful, it holds a central place in the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation and ordination to the deaconate, priesthood and episcopal office. This prayerful action is a means of prayer for all of us e.g. praying over a child leaving home for the first day of school, or when traveling, praying for the journey and a safe return, or praying over a newly engaged couple or someone who is sick.
This Paschal season is one in which many children and adults are initiated into full communion with the Church. We celebrate with them, for they are a cause of great joy for us as church. They encourage us to deepen our faith journey into the same paschal mystery.
May we live our lives with hearts open to evangelise as Philip did.
Fionnuala Quinn O.P.