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In our reading, the Christian Gospel continues to spread throughout Palestine, despite persecution by the Jews (which we saw with the death of St. Stephen in the previous chapter). Here, the Gospel arrives among the Samaritans, which shows how Christianity is beginning to spread beyond the confines of the Jewish people, fulfilling Christ’s promise before His ascension to His disciples that, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV-CE)
Note how the Holy Spirit falls upon the converts when the Apostles lay hands on them after they are baptized in the name of Jesus. This is one of the earliest instances of the sacrament of Confirmation. Through this sacrament, the Holy Spirit comes upon those who are confirmed in a more special way, which completes the grace first given to them at Baptism, binds them more perfectly to Christ’s Church, and strengthens them to become witnesses to the faith (CCC 1285). Pope Paul VI explains:
“From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. ... The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.” (Pope Paul VI, Divina Consortium Naturae 659, quoted in CCC 1288)
The reading of this passage this Sunday of Easter is especially fitting as we approach Pentecost, which is when the Sacrament of Confirmation is traditionally administered to children who grew up in the Church (as opposed to adult converts, who typically receive it during the Easter Vigil). As we reflect upon this passage, we should allow it to give us a greater appreciation for the gift of the Holy Spirit which we received at our own Confirmation.