We must allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have received in Baptism and Confirmation to be fully released in us.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah prophesied that the spirit of the Lord would come upon the Messiah. This was fulfilled when the Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove at his baptism in the Jordan. Our Lord’s whole mission and life was lived out in communion with the Spirit. But the Holy Spirit was not to remain the possession of just the Messiah. In this article, Fr Sean Maguire continues to look at the Sacrament of Confirmation.
At the Last Supper, Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:7). His promise was fulfilled on the evening of the first Easter Sunday, when Jesus appeared to his disciples and breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22). Then fifty days later, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the fearful and timid disciples and transformed them into a courageous band of apostles. Christianity began to spread like wildfire. So it is no wonder that Pentecost is described as the “birthday of the Church”.
Confirmation, along with Baptism and the Eucharist, form the Sacraments of Initiation. When a believer receives all three of the sacraments, they are fully initiated into the Catholic Church. The strong connection between Baptism and Confirmation is brought out in the Catechism when it teaches that “the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of Baptismal grace” (CCC 1285). So Confirmation completes and perfects the grace of Baptism. The special connection between Baptism and Confirmation is seen by the tradition of the confirmands choosing a Confirmation name. In Baptism, we receive a share in the divine life and the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. While in Confirmation, we receive an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which strengthens us to serve the Church and to draw others into a friendship with God. The existing bond between the baptised person and the Church is strengthened through the power of the Holy Spirit received at Confirmation.
The Second Vatican Council taught: “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptised] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. They are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed” (LG 11). So through the Sacrament of Confirmation, God infused the grace of Pentecost in us and we received the spiritual strength to bear witness to Christ and to bring him to a world that is crying out for God. We ought to rely more on the Strength from on High when we are tempted to sin or to deny the faith.
The Church will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost on Sunday the 9th of June this year. Two years ago, Archbishop Eamon Martin expressed a longing “for a New Pentecost in Ireland, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew the faith in this country and spread onwards and outwards in an enthusiastic mission!” In these joyous Easter days as we prepare for Pentecost, we might pray for a New Pentecost here in Ireland, for a new springtime in the faith. We all have a role to play in this springtime. But we must allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have received in Baptism and Confirmation to be fully released in us. The Church in Ireland needs to be rejuvenated. But this will only happen if we are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and are willing to be guided by Him. So as we approach Pentecost Sunday, may we pledge to be stronger witnesses of the Gospel and may our prayer simply be: ‘Come, Holy Spirit!’ May Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Star of the New Evangelisation, intercede and guide the Church here in Ireland always!
By Fr. Sean Maguire