There are twenty-two students in this parish who are preparing to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation next weekend. Their family and friends will be gathering to celebrate this special day in their lives. Those who are present will see the Bishop tracing a cross on the forehead of each of the Candidates while he says aloud: Be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Hopefully, the young adult standing before the Bishop will reply: Amen
. Then he will greet each one of them with the words: Peace be with you
, and if all goes well, they will reply: and with your spirit
. The visible signs of this grace-filled moment are few but we believe that there is something much greater happening within the hearts of each of those who is Confirmed. At the moment of Baptism, each child begins a life in faith. At that moment, the gifts of the Spirit are already present in our hearts, but they are awakened within us in a special way on the day of Confirmation, and from that day onwards, each of us is strengthened by these gifts so that we can be witnesses for Christ in the world.
This same awakening of the Spirit’s gifts was true for the Apostles. On the day of Pentecost, they received these gifts so that they in turn could go out into the world to spread the good news, but God was also at work in the hearts of those who heard them preaching. We see evidence of this within the heart of Saul. Even though he had once been persecuting the early Christians, God changed his heart and called him to become one of the disciples. This was not only surprising for him; it would have been even more surprising for the disciples. When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples
(Acts 9:26). He had had a change of heart, but the disciples did not know that, so naturally they were reluctant. In fact, since they knew about his past and the fact that he had persecuted the Christians, they were afraid of him. It was only because the Spirit was active in Saul’s heart that he was able to convince them that he was no longer an enemy, but rather a companion of theirs. In fact, he became an ardent preacher – to the point where he himself had to be protected from those who wanted to harm him (cf Acts 9:29).
God is preparing the young people in our parish and equipping them with the courage to be able to proclaim their faith too. This is one of the gifts that the Spirit awakens in our hearts. As we continue to grow into adulthood, the Spirit’s gifts also help us to grow in our understanding of the special plans that God has for each of us. All we need to do every day is remember that God lives in our hearts and that we are connected to him like the branches of an enormous vine (cf Jn 15:1).
As we become more and more aware of the Spirit’s gifts alive in our hearts and active in our lives, we are increasingly aware of the ways God makes himself known to us. The scriptures refer to our awareness of God’s presence as the fruits of the Spirit. The more we are aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives, the more we are aware of the Spirit at work within us. This presence of Jesus and the work of the Spirit are pure gift. Nothing we do could ever earn this gift, but we are the ones who benefit from these gifts, and it’s up to us to share these gifts with others who we meet.
Let us pray this week for the young people who are preparing to celebrate Confirmation next weekend, and let us love, not merely in word or speech, but in truth and action
(1 Jn 3:18), and let us marvel at the gifts of the Spirit in action.