Sunday, May 17, 2020

Receive the Holy Spirit

May 17th - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year A

In our first reading, we see that Philip, the deacon, was the opening act for Peter and John.  He went down to Samaria, got the crowd riled up for the word of God, and once finished, Peter and John show up, and they do something fascinating.

We see that the people to whom Philip was preaching to “had only been Baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but had not yet received the Spirit.” So what exactly were Peter and John doing?  They were conferring on them the Sacrament of Confirmation - the Sacrament that completes their Baptism so that they may fully receive the Spirit.

As a matter of fact, if you research the sacrament of Confirmation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church you find this very reading at the bottom in the “In Brief” section, CCC 1315:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).

Another interesting discovery requiring just a little digging tells us more about Philip. Philip was one of the deacon’s mentioned in last week’s first reading from Acts 6:1-7.  He didn’t lay hands on them but he could baptize.  We can see this in Acts 8:26 where Philip baptizes the Ethiopian.  He was only a deacon and like today in time could not confer the sacrament of Confirmation.  That’s where Peter and John come in.  We know that they are Bishops because when they choose a successor for Judas, the betrayer in Acts 1:20 we read:

 For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’
‘May another take his office’.

Ok, so that’s not very interesting to my point here is it? May another take his “office” actually is a big deal. If you take another translation that is older (Douay-Rheims Bible) Acts 1:20 reads:

For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take.

Peter and John were amongst the twelve so they were indeed considered Bishops of the very early church, and like today in time, the Bishop is the “ordinary” minister of Confirmation.

So the next time someone asks you where the sacraments are in the bible you can answer this one!  By the way, Acts 1:5 is another good spot to see Confirmation in action!

That leads us to a nice segue into our second reading from 1 Peter 3:15-16:

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

As confirmed adults (well, if you are confirmed already) the responsibility lies on your shoulders to learn more about the faith so that you may teach others.  You don’t have to teach religious education but you do need to be ready to teach when the opportunity presents itself.  It could be to family, to coworkers, people you meet, anybody really but you have to have the knowledge.  

Our second reading also tells us we need to teach “with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear”.  We see this kind of teaching in today’s psalm where the psalmist is lovingly telling the listeners about what God has done for them.

Our first step towards this should be prayer.  This is how we “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts” as the first letter from Peter today reads.  If Christ is not Lord in our hearts then how can our hearts work with our minds so that we can properly teach about him?  

Ask the Holy Spirit for assistance because there is a lot of bad theology out there.  When in doubt refer to the sacraments in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well.  Google carefully!  A good search might be “CCC Confirmation” and the first couple of links I saw were from  That’s definitely a reliable source, the Pope is there after all!  

Books can be valuable too but if you aren’t sure if it’s really Catholic look for the Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur on the first few pages, it means the book has been reviewed and stays true to Catholic teachings.  I don’t want to turn this into a commercial but you can always count on books by Scott Hahn, Edward Sri, Saint Pope John Paul II, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and the like.

Today’s Gospel tells us the best way to learn, to achieve sanctity, and to ultimately gain Heaven:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Know what Jesus’ teaches and you know what the Father teaches because Jesus and the Father are indeed one!  Each day spend some time in scripture, especially the Gospels.  Get yourself a good Catholic bible like the St. Joseph Edition or the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and read the Gospels often.  Study them.  Refer to the notes at the bottom of the page.  In doing this you will get to know Jesus, you will become a friend of Jesus and you can’t go wrong there!

As St. Catherine of Siena (Doctor of the Church) once said:

All the way to Heaven is Heaven because Jesus said ‘I am the Way’

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the guys from my Wednesday night Bible Study for making my thoughts come to fruition this week!

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