We spend this time of the Easter season living the reality of our risen Savior and basking in the newness of creation brought by the changing of the seasons. All around us the beauty of nature in springtime reminds us of the new life we have in Christ Jesus. This time of year is truly very special because we also look forward to the coming in June of Pentecost, our celebration of God’s sending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ apostles after his resurrection.
Pentecost marks for us the culmination of the Easter season. It is an important occasion in the life of the Church because, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the apostles understood their mission to spread the good news of Jesus. Even today, the Holy Spirit is the force that fills and inspires us to live out our faith as our Church teaches, “Knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindle faith in us.” (CCC 683)
We all know the Pentecost story: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The sacrament of confirmation confers that same special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. The effects of the sacrament are extraordinary, as it brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace and unites us more firmly to Christ, rendering our bond with him more perfect. Through the sacrament, the Holy Spirit helps us spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, providing us with these gifts: the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of right judgment and courage; the spirit of knowledge and reverence; and the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence.
These gifts we received upon our confirmation provide us with the power from on high that we need to be an effective witness for Christ in the world. In order to be an effective witness, we must give as a gift what we have received as a gift and work to be missionary disciples, spreading the good news of Jesus to others in our homes, our communities and in the world. Can you imagine what this world would be like if the apostles had kept the gifts of the Holy Spirit to themselves and not shared the faith? We would not be together as a Church today.
It is the Holy Spirit that incorporates us more firmly into Christ, strengthens our bond with the Church, associates us more closely with her mission and helps us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds. I always emphatically remind those receiving the sacrament of confirmation to never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, through you and despite you. These are important words to remember for it is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have the power to bring ourselves and others closer to Christ.