Confirmation and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday. (1) Gn 1:1-2:2; Ps 104:1-2,5-6,10,12-14,24,35; (3) Ex 14:15-15:1; (Ps)Ex 15:1-6,17-18; (5) Is 55:1-11; (Ps)Is 12:2-3,4-6; (8) Rm 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; (9) Mt 28:1-10

Two people present with us this evening will be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Four others will receive, with them, the Sacrament of Confirmation. On this joyful occasion I want to dedicate this brief homily to the subject of Confirmation. I hope, however, that this will benefit all of us as Confirmation is closely related to the death and Resurrection of Christ we are celebrating this evening.

So what is Confirmation? The word comes from the Latin ‘firmare’, which means ‘to make firm’ or ‘to strengthen’. But the crucial word ‘com’ is added to ‘firmare’. This word ‘com’ means ‘together’, signifying completion and relationship. This sacrament gives us strength, not on our own, but together with God. Confirmation is the great sacrament of surrender to a person, the person of the Holy Spirit.

Now the idea of strength through surrender may seem strange because we normally think of strength as self-sufficiency, of needing no-one. But the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit given in Confirmation are all Gifts of surrender to the Holy Spirit. These Gifts are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence and Awe. All of these Gifts are relational. The Gift of Knowledge, for example, is not a gift of new information. Instead, by means of the Gift of Knowledge, the Holy Spirit prompts us to appreciate what we know in the light of our relationship with God. So, for example, all the kingdoms of this world, power, wealth, worldly ambition and so on, start to look like a joke, like a child's sandcastle when the tide is turning. On the other hand, we start to appreciate that even the smallest things done for the love of God have everlasting importance. Jesus says, for example, that whoever gives a person a cup of cold water because he is a disciple shall not lose his reward (Mt 10:42). So Confirmation is the great sacrament of surrender to the person of the Holy Spirit, and, in the light of this surrender, the Gifts begin to transform what we know and how we act.

But where will this surrender take us? The Gifts given in Confirmation give us the means to follow Christ, at least to the extent that we surrender to the Holy Spirit, for God always leaves us free to refuse. But where will God lead us? Well, Good Friday teaches us that following Christ involves suffering as well as joy, but not useless suffering. God uses the cross to purge and purify us, like a crucible that burns and purifies gold, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” By means of the cross, God removes our hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh, hearts that burn with the love of God. Thus the great icon of the Christian life is the Sacred Heart, the heart pierced by thorns and aflame with love. Then, when this work is complete in us and our lives are over, there is the miracle. Holy Saturday follows Good Friday. Christ rose again, bursting the gates of death. What God has stripped away, even the very physical life of the body, is raised and glorified. As Christians we die with Christ. Where He has gone into glory we hope to follow.

Fr. Andrew Pinsent, St. Ambrose Church, St. Louis, 22nd March 2008

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