May 21, Sixth Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Responsoral Psalm: 66:1-3a, 4-7a
Second reading: 1 Peter 3:15-18
Gospel: John 14:15-21
I love the progression of this week’s Old Testament and New Testament readings, and how they speak to the “communication” of the Holy Spirit among believers.
The first reading tells about the apostles laying hands on new believers who then received the Holy Spirit. The Gospel talks about the Father sending an Advocate, “the Spirit of truth,” to those who love him, to live in them and reveal God to them (one might add, again and again).
During a confirmation preparation program I helped lead, parents joined us for one of the sessions, and at its conclusion we invited them to join the sponsors in laying hands on their children and other candidates in silent prayer.
We hoped the young people would feel the warm reality of God’s presence in the human touch of those who love them and who wanted the Spirit to come deeply into their lives. Subsequent comments from some of the candidates suggested that that was, indeed, what happened for them.
But comments from parents indicated that they, too, were touched powerfully by the Spirit as they laid hands on their young people. These were people who had held and hugged their kids throughout their 16 or 17 years of life, yet several remarked that they were thankful to have the opportunity, in the words of one, “to do this for my child.” Many were moved to tears.
I laid hands on their children, too, and I can vouch for the fact that I truly sensed the Spirit of Jesus passing between us. As Catholics, we are fortunate to have tangible symbolic acts, such as laying on hands, to bring alive our spoken or silent words in prayer.
And we don’t come out of the experience wondering, “What just happened?” The Gospel explains it, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. … And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
How has God been revealed to you in the laying on of hands — either as the one laying on hands or the recipient? What other tangible prayer experiences have you had, and how has God been revealed in those?