The Acts of the Apostles, in their record of Philip’s mission to the Samaritan towns of Samaria, describe the gift of the Holy Spirit as the completion of our sharing in the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. The grace of salvation had begun with the faith of those who had received Philip’s preaching as the Word of God. They had responded by accepting baptism in the name of Jesus, a true sharing in his death and Resurrection. The Apostles in Jerusalem had rejoiced at the news of their baptism, but were anxious that the life begun in them through baptism should be brought to completion with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“They sent Peter and John to them, and they went and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
We are reminded, as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost, that our own communion with the Risen Lord continues to be rooted in the same realities. The Word of God, proclaimed by Philip, must be alive in our lives as a constant challenge and invitation. Our baptism into Christ must continue to be a daily commitment to die and rise with him. We must remain open to the work of the Holy Spirit, a gift entrusted to us at our confirmation and anointing with the Holy Spirit. These are not past events. It is only through all three, our response to God’s Word, our baptism and the gift of the Spirit, that we are alive in Christ.
St Peter confidently expected that an unbelieving world would be attracted by the vitality of Christ’s presence in the newly baptised.
“Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have.”
Peter’s words are both reassuring and challenging. We embrace the hope entrusted to us by the Lord, but we sometimes struggle to put into words the grace that we have received.
In the Gospel Jesus grounded this hope in our communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is, first and foremost, a communion of love, a love lived in our fidelity to the commandments.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive.”
The Spirit reveals to us the truth about ourselves. In Christ’s Resurrection we are made the dwelling place of God. There is no need to seek for this Spirit in hidden places. In the words of Jesus we shall know the Spirit “because he is with you, he is in you”. The indwelling Spirit enables us, even now, to take our place in the presence of God.
“On that day you will understand that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.”
This, in the words of Peter, is the hope that lies within us. Christ has died, Christ is Risen. His Spirit dwells in our hearts, revealing that already we are the children of God, living in his presence.
In the days that lead to Pentecost let us pray that the Spirit might reveal in us the wonder of a life lived with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us live our lives in such a way that the world might be drawn to the hope that gives us life.