by Father Mike Stubbs
When summer finally rolls around, I always hope that I will then be able to find room in my life for those projects that I have been putting off.
I can pay attention to only so many things at one time. In order to move on to something new, I may need to get rid of some of those things.
In a sense, we see that happening in Sunday’s first reading, Acts 8:5-8, 14-17. Philip has left Jerusalem because of the persecution that has broken out there. He travels to Samaria, where he begins to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to the locals.
When Philip proclaims Christ to the people of Samaria, he also works miracles among them. Some of the more significant miracles involve driving out unclean spirits. As they are expelled, the unclean spirits cry out in a loud voice. In a sense, their loud cries echo Philip’s proclamation about Jesus, because they witness to his power.
The absence of the unclean spirits makes room for the Holy Spirit to come into the hearts of those who had been possessed, which happens when the apostles Peter and John lay hands on those who have arrived at faith in Christ and have been baptized. One goes out, so that the other may come in. The unclean spirits had filled a spiritual vacuum in their hearts. As long as the evil spirits had remained there, it was not possible for the Holy Spirit to enter. Only when they left could the Holy Spirit enter in.
It is a situation analogous to that of our own day, when people will sometimes attempt to satisfy their spiritual hungers by turning to something other than God. They may obsess about a sport or some other pastime. It may be something very trivial, like a TV show or a video game. It may be something more serious, like a fascination with the occult.
In any case, by focusing all their energies on that one thing, by placing all their hopes and dreams on it, they are attempting to fill the emptiness in their lives. Meanwhile, there is no room for God.
That is why the proclamation of Christ is so important. It enables us to see what is truly important, what is of lasting value. It can purge us of that which is inconsequential and trivial. With those things gone, there is room for the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives.