“While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can any one forbid water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10: 44-48a)
Right after St. Peter preached about Jesus Christ in the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word,” – “even on the Gentiles” who were not yet baptised. So, one might ask, did they even “need” to be baptised, if hearing the Good News taught by Peter already enabled them to receive the Holy Spirit, and to “speak in tongues” and to “praise God,” in the Spirit?
Yes, they did “need” to be baptised. Why? Because our Lord said so, when He commanded the Apostles not only to “go and make disciples of all nations,” and to “teach” all that He had commanded them, but also to “baptise them” (Mt 28: 19-20). While the Holy Spirit breathes “where He will” (Jn 3: 8), often beyond the boundaries of the Church, it is through full immersion in Him, – through Baptism, – that we are empowered to be born “from above,” to don a new garment, Who is Christ Himself, and to embark on His cross-carrying Way within His Body.
But still, the not-baptised can be filled with the Holy Spirit, having heard “the word,” and they can both “speak” and “praise God” in the Spirit. And this is what struck me in our Church’s reading for today from the Book of Acts of the Apostles, quoted above. I’m reminded that our Church, a Church we profess to be “apostolic,” does not deny the possibility of Spirit-filled speaking and praising of God, coming from those who are inspired by God’s word, but are not baptised. Thank You, God, for all those, – even the “outsiders” to “us,” – who speak of You and praise You in this world, in Your Spirit.
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