4th Sunday of Easter
Confirmation at CMOQ
April 24, 2021
Thank you very much, Msgr. Woy and Fr. Ewing. I am happy to confirm the candidates from this Cathedral Parish whom you just presented and to whose preparedness you have testified. Let me now offer a word of encouragement to you, our confirmation candidates, and then a word of encouragement to your sponsors and parents.
Sacrament of Initiation
And so, dear candidates, As you got ready to receive this Sacrament, I am sure your teachers informed you that Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. The first was Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. From the moment you were baptized, you began to share in the Lord’s love. Baptism washed away original sin from your souls. You began to share in the Lord’s saving death and resurrection. Joined to the Risen Lord, you became a member of the Church, which is so closely united to Christ that St. Paul calls it “the Body of Christ”. The next sacrament of initiation was your First Holy Communion which most of you received in the second or third grade. For the first time, you received Our Lord in Holy Communion – not just a piece of bread that symbolizes the Lord’s presence, but in fact the Lord’s own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. By taking part in Mass each Sunday, and by receiving Holy Communion, you deepen your relationship with the Lord and with the Church, and receive the strength you need to live as followers of Christ.
Now you are receiving the third and final sacrament of initiation, Confirmation. This is a good occasion to be clear about what a sacrament of initiation really is. It’s not like joining a club or getting introduced to new classmates or teammates. It’s something that is a lot deeper and more important than any of that. The sacraments of initiation lay the foundation of your lives as Christians. They begin your relationship with Christ and the Church, relationships meant to last throughout your lives on earth and, in fact, forever. What we are doing this afternoon will last for all eternity. What, then, is about to happen?
What Will Happen?
After you renew the promises of your Baptism, I will pray over you. I will ask that you receive more completely the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the same gifts Jesus received in his humanity when the Holy Spirit came upon him. You probably memorized the names of these gifts: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, right judgment, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. Next, I will anoint you with holy oil known as Chrism. Just as the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus at his Baptism in the Jordan River, so too, by means of holy Chrism, I will anoint you with the Holy Spirit. In fact, I will say to you, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
What could it mean to be “sealed” with the Holy Spirit? First, it doesn’t mean keeping something secret, like court documents that are sealed. Nor is it like a coating on a surface to keep out the rain or like varnish to protect a gym floor. It’s more like the seal of a king that indicated his authority over his kingdom, or like the seal soldiers wore to indicate their allegiance to their country and its leader. But getting sealed with the Holy Spirit is something much better than any of that. When I anoint you outwardly with Chrism and say, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” inwardly, in your souls, the Holy Spirit will mark you out as belonging to Christ, to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who loves and cares for you more than you can imagine. And if you belong to Christ, you belong also to Christ’s Body, the Church. If you belong to Christ, you are a beloved son or daughter of God the Father, who calls you, through the Holy Spirit, to follow his Son in this life, and to be happy with him in the next life. Your response to this astonishing event is one word: “Amen” which means, “So be it!” And you might be tempted to think, ‘Well, that’s that!” But wait, there’s more!
In coming to you through Baptism, Holy Communion, and now Confirmation, God has done his part and will continue to do his part and more than his part. His love for us is unconditional and it will never fail us, even if, for a time, we reject it. But the Lord didn’t make us to be machines or computers or robots. He made us to be people, free people, who can accept or reject his love or set it aside. I am praying earnestly for you that you will not reject or neglect the Lord’s love but rather build a life of faith and joy on the sacramental foundations of your lives. Let me put it to you another way: You will love someone or something and give your life to someone or something. People give their lives to many things that let them down and let them down badly. By contrast, the Lord is inviting you to a friendship that will last forever, a friendship with himself and with all those he has redeemed in his love. I was baptized and confirmed many, many years ago, and I can only tell you that the Lord’s friendship and being a part of his Church are the most important realities in my life. I hope that you will be able to say the same thing when you are my age or even older. If, in God’s grace you use your freedom to remain close to the Lord and to follow him in his Church, the Lord will show you the specific vocation and work he has in mind for you. God calls each of us to vocations like the priesthood, religious life, and marriage, and he also entrusts to us some work that he has entrusted to no one else.
A Word of Encouragement to Parents and Sponsors
Finally, l thank you, the parents and sponsors of these confirmation candidates. In the best of times, your vocation of marriage and family is challenging. Throughout this pandemic, your vocation became even more challenging. All the more, then, I thank you for bringing your sons and daughters to this important point in their lives of faith. I can only encourage you to demonstrate for these young people what it means to live the faith, what it means to live as a beloved son or daughter of God, and what it means to be faithful members of Christ’s Body, the Church. It never was and it never will be easy to be a committed follower of Christ, and the times in which we live have their own particular challenges. I hope you will take the occasion of this Confirmation to be renewed in your own faith and that you will find in your faith consolation, peace, and those truths and values that are worthy of your life and love, now and for all eternity.
Congratulations to those of you about to be confirmed. May God bless you and keep you always in his love!