Scripture Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
In today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read that a group of Samarians received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid their hands on them. Up to that point, they had “only” been baptized in the name of Jesus, but when Peter and John laid their hands on them, the people were infused with the Holy Spirit. Tonight in Elsipogtog, I attended the confirmation mass where Archbishop Vienneau confirmed each of the 17 young candidates who have been preparing throughout the year. During the Rite of Confirmation, the Archbishop anoints the candidates, who have already been baptized, with sacred chrism and says “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The idea is that the Holy Spirit will help guide them in making good choices in their lives and help them to be purveyors of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, their baptism is sealed and they become fully initiated into the church with an honoured, sacred space reserved for them at the Eucharistic table.
At this time of year, during the Easter Season, I am often asked to facilitate retreats for young people preparing to receive this sacrament. During these retreats, as well as in their preparation leading up to the retreats, the young people hear a good deal about receiving the Holy Spirit. By the time they are confirmed, they should know our Church teaches that at their baptism, they are granted seven special gifts through the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-2). These gifts develop into special qualities as they are nurtured and strengthened, otherwise known as the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It all sounds very logical that one should follow the other, almost without effort, really…within a year. The reality is that this requires some focused work and diligence, and there are times when it gets complicated. Not to mention that this does not happen immediately for everyone, I can assure you. For me it was an embarrassing number of years before I started making a connection with using my God-given gifts of grace and virtue as a means of trying to develop strength of character embodied by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I was confirmed in 1988, and I still have shocking amount of work to do on this.
When we read in today’s Gospel from John that the “Spirit of Truth” will abide within each of us who loves Jesus and keeps his commandments, I think this speaks to the importance of keeping connected with these gifts granted to us by the Holy Spirit, and using them to develop tools for doing good work. I think this is God’s work.
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”