The first reading from Acts of the Apostles contains not only an apt depiction of Baptism and Confirmation but also an early delineation of their administration, which continues to this day. Philip, one of the first seven Deacons, went to Samaria, preached the Gospel, expelled demons and healed the sick. As people came to believe in the Gospel message they were Baptized by Phillip and there was great joy in that city but their initiation was not complete. Phillip could Baptize but he could not confer that special gift of the Holy Spirit made present in the Sacrament of Confirmation. That responsibility fell to the Apostles, the first Bishops of the Church.
Still today, it is the Deacon or Priest who Baptizes but Confirmation is the responsibility of the Bishop, or his delegate. The one variance to this is when a Baptized Christian becomes Catholic; after a profession of Faith in all that the Catholic Church teaches, the Priest has the authority to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Within this story of Phillip and the Samaritans there are a couple of hidden gems. Notice how St. Luke tells us, with one accord, the crowds paid attention to Philip. What was it about Philip’s preaching that stirred such a response from the Samaritans? We need to recall Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. The Samaritans, too, were awaiting the Messiah. They, too, had Hope.
In our second reading, St. Peter, our first Pope, tells us to, “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Hope is the key. It is the first hidden gem which opens the door to the second, the Spirit of Truth promised by Jesus in the Gospel.
Every person is created in the image and likeness of God and contains within their nature a connection to our Creator and a Hope for a lasting relationship with Him. That Hope is the Holy Spirit’s pathway to the depths of a person’s soul. He worked through the words of Phillip and He works through our own words and actions. He will remain with us if we love Christ and follow His words to keep my commandments.