Published on:

17th May 2020

The Sacrament of Confirmation.

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

In a striking text for today the Holy Spirit shakes us into recognising one of his works amongst us today. The first part of this text beings in today’s First Reading: “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Now isn’t that interesting. The Samaritans had already been baptised. But that’s not good enough for the bishop, John, or even the Pope, Peter. Instead they insist on an additional ritual: “Then they laid hands on them.” And they are right - the baptised Christians there need that ritual:- because beforehand, as the text tells us, “for as yet he [the Holy Spirit] had not come down on any of them”; and after, “they received the Holy Spirit”. How about that! The bishops were right!

This text is one of the more concrete passages describing the practice of the sacrament of confirmation in the early Church - and especially its importance being insisted upon by the apostles. We speak a lot about the baptised - but its important not to lose sight of the fundamental reality that initiation into full communion with the Church constitutes three sacraments instituted by Christ: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. Our separated brother Christians who only have the sacrament of baptism miss out on a huge participation in the richness and strength of Christ as he gave them to us at the beginning of the Church.

So what does confirmation actually do? The Compendium reminds us of some crucial elements at number 268: “The effect of Confirmation is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost. This outpouring impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of Baptism. It roots the recipient more deeply in divine sonship, binds him more firmly to Christ and to the Church and reinvigorates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his soul. It gives a special strength to witness to the Christian faith.”

In other words, confirmation is at the heart of us having the strength to be free enough to be deeply bound to Christ and live as Christian witnesses.

This is why it is so important that those who are confirmed are really well-prepared for confirmation - that they develop their personal relationship with Christ, and they prepare to be good witnesses, evangelisers, of Christianity to others. One concrete consequence of this reflection is for us to perhaps reconsider the formation we are giving our young people in our homes and our schools. Obviously two or three weeks focussed on the gifts of the Holy Spirit is, at this time, just not good enough. Maybe a better way would be to, alongside already established patterns of daily prayer, giving them a seven week course in the Kerygma - in developing a personal relationship with the Risen Jesus, and learning how to evangelise. 

And maybe we can benefit from doing the same also. So we live daily with Jesus, and are effective witnessing evangelisers of Christianity.

Let us pray:

“Grant, almighty God, that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy, which we keep in honour of the risen Lord, and that what we relive in remembrance we may always hold to in what we do. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”

Show artwork for The Furnace

About the Podcast

The Furnace
The Furnace is a free brief daily homily podcast by a priest of the Emmanuel Community for the Archdiocese of Sydney. The aim of the podcast is to proclaim the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the "glowing furnace of love" (St Gertrude the Great).
Why The Furnace? Quite simply because most people in Australia, and the
world, can no longer get to Mass, or even into a church. The point of these
podcasts is to bring people a share of the Mass in the Word of God and prayer.
But why the name? Because the Heart of Jesus is a “Furnace of love”. This
is how St Gertrude the Great describes it. As she prays:

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
fountain of eternal life,
Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love.
You are my refuge and my sanctuary.
O my adorable and loving Saviour,
consume my heart with the burning fire
with which Yours is aflamed.
Pour down on my soul those graces
which flow from Your love.
Let my heart be united with Yours.
Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things.
May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions.

The point of these homilies is first of all to share this with everyone - to
share the love of God’s heart with every human heart. There is nothing original
about that. This is, basically, all priests are ever trying to do. And it’s the only
real point of the Catholic Church: invented by Christ to share Christ, starting
from his pierced heart on the cross on Good Friday. It’s only fitting that at this
time each of us are being refitted with slightly larger crosses that our creator
comes to meet us from the cross with his own heart pierced and broken.

There is so much I could say about the Heart of Jesus - but I would have
to go on forever, because his Heart is infinite. So I’ll finish with the invitation of
another of the great saints of the Sacred Heart, St Claude la Colombiere:
May the Heart of Jesus Christ be our school! Let us make our abode there . . .

Let us study its movements and attempt to conform ours to them.
My friends, lets enter Jesus’ heart together.

It’s not just me recording it, or just you listening to a recording.

I rely on your prayers, and as I write and talk I am praying for each of you. And
in any case, there is no such thing as a Christian doing something by themselves:
like the Trinity, where one is, the others are. So let’s enter together, for Jesus is
standing in front of us now, with his heart wide open, to enter and experience
his love, his healing, his teaching, authentic freedom - and eternal life with him.