I would now like to speak especially to the young people who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Today’s Gospel has special meaning for you, for it says that “Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you,” and showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” After saying this he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20,20-22).
Christ‘s gift of the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out upon you in a particular way. You will hear the words of the Church spoken over you, calling upon the Holy Spirit to confirm your faith, to seal you in his love, to strengthen you for his service. You will then take your place among fellow-Christians throughout the world, full citizens now of the People of God. You will witness to the truth of the Gospel in the name of Jesus Christ. You will live your lives in such a way as to make holy all human life. Together with all the confirmed, you will become living stones in the cathedral of peace. Indeed you will be called by God to be instruments of his peace.
Today you must understand that you are not alone. We are one body, one people, one Church of Christ. The sponsor who stands at your side represents for you the whole community. Together, with a great crowd of witnesses drawn from all peoples and every age, you represent Christ. You are young people who have received a mission from Christ, for he says to you today: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”
“Jesus breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained”
On the first Pentecost our Savior gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins when he poured into their hearts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit comes to you today in the Sacrament of Confirmation, to involve you more completely in the Church’s fight against sin and in her mission of fostering holiness. He comes to dwell more fully in your hearts and to strengthen you for the struggle with evil. My dear young people, the world of today needs you, for it needs men and women who are filled with the Holy Spirit. It needs your courage and hopefulness, your faith and your perseverance. The world of tomorrow will be built by you.
Today you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that you may work with deep faith and with abiding charity, so that you may help to bring to the world the fruits of reconciliation and peace. Strengthened by the Holy Spirit and his manifold gifts, commit yourselves wholeheartedly to the Church’s struggle against sin. Strive to be unselfish; try not to be obsessed with material things. Be active members of the People of God; be reconciled with each other and devoted to the work of justice, which will bring peace on earth.
“How many are your works, O Lord!”
These words of the responsorial psalm evoke gratitude from our hearts and a hymn of praise from our lips. Indeed how many are the works of the Lord, how great are the effects of the Holy Spirit’s action in Confirmation! When this sacrament is conferred, the words of the psalm are fulfilled among us: “You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth” (v. 30).
On the first day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and upon Mary and filled them with his power. Today we remember that moment and we open ourselves again to the gift of that same Holy Spirit. In that Spirit we are baptized. In that Spirit we are confirmed. In that Spirit we are called to share in the mission of Christ. In that Spirit we shall indeed become the People of Pentecost, the apostles of our time. “Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” Amen.
Confirmation (or Chrismation) is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit whom Christ Jesus sent (John 7:37-39, 16:7). Jesus instructed his Apostles that they “will receive the power of the Holy Spirit” and called upon the Apostles to be his “witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). At the Pentecost, the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), and began to spread the Word of God. The Acts of the Apostles is often called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote of the Mysteries of Baptism, Eucharist, and Chrism in the mid-fourth century AD.
The rite of Confirmation is anointing the forehead with chrism, together with the laying on of the hands and the words, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The recipient receives the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). On occasion one may receive one or more of the charismatic gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
The ecclesial effect and sacramental grace of the sacrament give the recipient the strength and character to witness for Jesus Christ. The East continues the tradition of the early Christian Church by administering the sacrament with Baptism. Confirmation in the West is administered by the Bishop to children from age 7 to 18, but generally to adolescents, for example, to a graduating class of grade school children. Key Scriptural sources for Confirmation are the following (See also Acts 1:4-5, 2:1-4, 2:38, 10:44-48):
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away,
for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you.
Gospel of John 16:7
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God,
they sent to them Peter and John,
who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit;
for it had not yet fallen on any of them,
but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17