By Kathy Horan
Each year when we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, we rejoice and celebrate the Spirit of Jesus alive in our midst – in us, in the Church and in the world.
The story of Pentecost reminds us of the birth of the Church and the transformation of the disciples from being fearful, uncertain individuals into spirited, bold proclaimers of the good news of Jesus. At that Pentecost time, they finally began to grasp the importance of what Jesus had said and done, and urged on by the Spirit of Jesus, they began to take up the challenge of being missionary disciples, spreading the joy of the gospel, and baptising people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
At our baptism, we are called into the community of faith and begin the process of initiation into the life of the Christian community. The faith of parents (and grandparents!) leads them to seek baptism for their child. Baptism in the Church formally begins our journey in faith and our development through life as disciples of Jesus.
At baptism, parents and godparents affirm their faith in God and promise to support their child in living the Christian life within the Catholic community.
Confirmation confirms or seals baptism. During confirmation, the child, now at an appropriate age and stage of development to do so, is asked to echo the promises of parents and godparents and to profess their faith.
At the end of the profession of faith, the Archbishop confirms what they have said by saying the following words: ‘This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Anointing with oil during confirmation strengthens us for the journey towards deeper faith and bearing witness to Jesus by the way we live our lives. Our baptism is sealed when the Archbishop says: ‘Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
Pope Francis speaks of confirmation as ‘the work of God, who cares for our lives in such a manner as to mould us in the image of his Son, to make us capable of loving like him’.
Through confirmation, the promised Holy Spirit comes upon us and releases anew the gifts of the Spirit.
When we seek wisdom and understanding, pursue knowledge and take counsel, and when we praise and reverence God, we are acting as Spirit-filled people to carry out Jesus’ mission to the world and to show the face of Christ to the world.
This is what it means to be on earth the heart of God: to allow the Spirit of God to radiate from our lives to all we meet. It is in the arena of our daily lives that all those initiated are called to make Jesus real in the world.
In his letter to the Galatians, St Paul tells the community what it means to live by the Spirit of Jesus when he talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
He says that the fruits of the Spirit are ‘love, peace, patience, joy, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control’.
Confirmation is a great opportunity for the community to hear again about the workings of the Spirit in our lives. In practical terms, we see the Spirit of Jesus alive and active in the world whenever we see people being patient with one another; when we see people acting with generosity and love; when we see people affirming and supporting others: this is where we see the Spirit at work today.
What an awesome way for us to be alert as missionary disciples to name how and where the Spirit is at work with and within us as we seek to make a difference through the faithful living of our lives as disciples of Jesus.