Father Stefan reflects on reading may 13

We read in the first reading, “Those who had been scattered by the persecution
that arose because of Stephen
went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word to no one but Jews.
There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however,
who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well,
proclaiming the Lord Jesus. 
The hand of the Lord was with them
and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord. 
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. 
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:19-16)

The hand of the Lord was with them. In the section on the Holy Spirit in the catechism  we have symbols of the Holy Spirit. One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is the hand. We read in the catechism, ” The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them. In his name the apostles will do the same. Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given. The letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the ‘fundamental elements’ of its teaching. The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.” (CCC 699)

Cantalamessa writes in his book, ‘Come Creator Spirit’ ” In Michelangelo’s great fresco we see the finger of God reaching out to communicate God’s vital energy to his creatures. We need to be reaching up, as we see Adam do in the fresco, holding our finger out in faith to receive that vitality. Let us repeat the prayer that the first Christian community prayed to God in a time of trial. They asked God to work ‘miracles and wonders,’ and God responded by pouring out the Spirit again just as at Pentecost.”

Cardinal Ratzinger ends his book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ with this beautiful image, “Let us return once more to the ending of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus led his followers into the vicinity of Bethany, we are told. ‘lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them them, he parted from them,, and was carried up to Heaven.’ (24:50-51) Jesus departs in the act of blessing. He goes while blessing, and he remains in that gesture of blessing. His hands remain stretched out over this world. The blessing hands of Christ are like a roof that protects us, But at the same time, they are a gesture of opening up, tearing the world open so that heaven may enter in, may become ‘present’ within it. The gesture of hands outstretched in blessing expresses Jesus’ continuing relationship to his disciples, to the world. In departing, he comes to us, in order to raise us up above ourselves and to open the World to God. That is why the disciples could return home from Bethany rejoicing. In faith we know that Jesus holds his hands stretched out in blessing over us. That is the lasting motive of Christian joy.”

Jesus has His Hands over you to protect you. In the posture of Jesus’ out stretched hands He sends us the Holy Spirit. Let us raise our hands to Jesus and hold on to His hands. It is in this embrace, this touch of our hands, that we receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 

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