Today, the Sacrament of Confirmation follows Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism, in most cases, is administered to infants. The children receive their First Holy Communion around the age of seven and they are confirmed in their teens. That’s the typical order of things. In the early Church, the order was a bit different. Once a person had a conversion to Jesus, they received all three sacraments of initiation at the same time.
Today’s second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit doesn’t always follow the prescribed order. Before he is even baptized, Cornelius is visited by an angel. At the same time, the Holy Spirit tells Peter to visit Cornelius, although Cornelius was a Gentile, and Peter, a faithful Jew, was forbidden to enter a Gentile’s home.
Then, as Peter preaches to Cornelius and his household, God breaks the rules again. The Holy Spirit comes upon these Gentiles, and they begin speaking in tongues. They didn’t have to repent, convert, or be baptized; the Spirit just fell. Only then did Peter baptize them.
What’s the point to this story? God likes to stretch the way we think. He stretched Cornelius and Peter while they were at prayer, and the same can happen with us. He stretched everyone again while Peter was preaching, and he stretched the whole Church when Peter explained to the other apostles what had happened.
Today, ask the Holy Spirit to stretch the way you think. Then listen to what comes into your mind. When the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass, ask the Spirit for new insight into God’s love. When you hear the homily, ask the Spirit to show you how to put it into practice. When you are praying after Communion, ask him to stretch your love for the people at Mass with you. Then, go out and try to do whatever you think the Spirit has put on your heart.