Thursday, September 18, 2008

In Confirmation, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit!
CCD Class Two

Previously, we noted that the essentials of some sacraments, like the Eucharist, can be understood fairly easily (the actual Body and Blood of Jesus), even if the full extent of the sacrament is an unfathomable mystery, while the Sacrament of Confirmation is, for many people, a total mystery. We examined the explanation in the Catechism, that it completes our baptismal graces in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and came away somewhat dissatisfied, in that we still had many questions.

If there is a simple phrase that can sum up Confirmation, so that the essentials can be immediately grasped, as with "the Body and Blood of Christ," perhaps Pope Benedict has hit on it in choosing the theme of the most recent World Youth Day. Rather than scratch our heads with trying to understand what is meant by increases of graces and "gifts" and "fruits" and being "soldiers for Christ," all of which are branches of the Confirmation tree, perhaps we can get to the root of it all with "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses." (Acts 1:8)

Perhaps, following Pope Benedict (and St. Luke, quoting Jesus), we can say, as a simple catch phrase, that, "in Confirmation, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit." This is, admittedly, vague in all its implications, but it hits the essential aspect of the sacrament and is quite easy to remember. This is the key to unlocking the mystery. If we wanted to go a little further, so as to answer the obvious question, the power to do what?, we could say, "in Confirmation, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be a witness for Christ (both to the world and to ourselves)."

Either way, it describes the essentials and allows one to understand the other aspects of the sacrament as being branches necessarily following from that root and trunk. Since it is already well understood that a witness is one who announces or testifies to the truth, the next obvious question is, what kind of power? Well, what kind of power do you need to be a witness to others and to yourself? You need knowledge and understanding and wisdom and fortitude, strength to withstand and overcome opposition. You need internal guidance (counsel) and a proper attitude of humility (to be pious and have reverential awe for He who is greater than us). To be an effective witness to others on behalf of Christ, you need to be giving of yourself (charity) and generous, you need to be kind and gentle and patient, you need to be good and faithful, and chaste, modest, and in self-control.

In Confirmation, we receive all of these powers of and from the Holy Spirit, if we only accept them, and these powers are like a light in a dark world -- a light of love and truth for ourselves and for others. These powers, these graces, allow us to do things that otherwise would be very difficult for us to do on our own, if not impossible. Not only in things like enduring overt persecution, as with the martyrs, but withstanding the everyday pressures, demands, and expectations of the world conflicting with our faith. Quite frequently in our lives, we may be called upon to choose - the world or Christ? For example, we might be pressured to do something which is contrary to the faith or else we will lose our job. Often times, when presented with that choice, we will act like Peter and deny that we even know this Jesus fellow. But the Confirmation power of the Holy Spirit gives us the fortitude to do the right thing, it gives us the wisdom and understanding, the proper formation of our consciences, to discern which is the right road to take when faced with a moral decision. It gives us the light to see, and the power to do what we otherwise most likely could not do on our own.

In Confirmation, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a power that created the whole universe! It is a power that allows the dead to live! Should we not think this power of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Love and Truth - could be helpful to us in our everyday lives? Is this not a gift that we should open and cherish and use each and every single day, rather than stick it in the corner where it will only collect dust? This is a power, a great power, which allows us to do great things. It is this power of the Holy Spirit that allows us to be true to ourselves! true to what God intended us to be, true to our purpose and meaning in life, which is to love and be loved. It is a precious and invaluable gift to be embraced and cherished.

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