Our Participation Today in the Mystery of Pentecost
When we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we need to pause and reflect on just how pervasive and ever-present the marvelous gift of the Spirit is. If we neglect the Spirit, the giver of life and font of all saving grace, then we impoverish our own lives and we remain unknown and unknowable even to ourselves.
Pentecost is not something we simply read about in history books or commemorate at Mass once a year. It is an action that we participate in; it is a significant event in our personal lives. The mystery of Pentecost happens now in our time in a special way through the sacrament of Confirmation. And it plays out each and every day of our personal lives.
Confirmation is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit. Although all of the sacraments depend upon the Holy Spirit’s grace and power, Confirmation is the rite specially associated with the third person of the Trinity.
As in the case of the other sacraments, in Confirmation each of us steps into the stream of salvation history. The great saving events are made present again to us in a real, meaningful and spiritual way. God promised his faithful people through the prophets that he would establish a New Covenant with them and pour out his Spirit upon them (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 3:1-5; Ezekiel 36:25-28). Pentecost is the moment that fulfills God’s promise, and Confirmation is the application of that grace of Pentecost, with its outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit, to each individual Christian life.
Related to but distinct from Baptism, Confirmation builds on baptismal grace to fully initiate us into the Church and make us complete Christians. The gifts of the Spirit that we receive help us to personally grow in holiness and to have a deeper relationship in the love of the Lord. But more particularly, the graces of Confirmation equip us for active participation in the mission of Jesus and his apostolic Church. That is, Confirmation gives us the special spiritual strength of the Spirit to be steadfast witnesses of Christ in a world that has often opposed him and the Christian message.
Beyond the usual trials of the human condition, which may tempt us to discouragement, are pressures from our secular culture to be quiet about our Christian faith or to give in and simply go along with things we know are not right. Especially in the work of sharing the Gospel, we might feel inarticulate and inadequate.
However, we need not “go it alone” in life. The Lord has not left us to fend for ourselves in our efforts to do good and avoid evil, to love one another in truth, to manifest his kingdom in and through our lives. The gracious gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the power to be changed into all that God calls us to be and to do all that he asks us to do.
The gifts of the Spirit that we receive in this sacrament are fortitude, wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These gifts are ours not just as a personal possession but as a means for God to reach everyone on earth with his saving message.
The Holy Spirit is stronger than all the vices and evils of the world. With him in our hearts through the sacrament of Confirmation, we have the power to overcome the weaknesses of our fallen nature, and we have the courage to be heralds of hope to a world that has great need for such witnesses of Jesus Christ.
As the Lord’s co-workers in his work of redemption (1 Corinthians 3:9; cf. Colossians 1:24), the Spirit works within us and works with us in all our uniqueness and weaknesses so that we can bear witness to the Lord in culture, art, music, literature, film, theater, law, medicine, science, education and news, and in the people we meet every day. With the Spirit, everything we do can be done to be more and more Christ-like – to be Christ in our lives – both for our good and for the salvation of others.
This blog post draws from passages of my book “Open to the Holy Spirit: Living the Gospel with Wisdom and Power.”