Gifted with the Spirit: Confirmation
Junior High, Lesson #1 “Called by the Spirit”
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Sponsors:
Jesus is not dead. This is the fundamental assertion of Christian faith. Jesus, who died on the Cross for sinners, was raised from the dead and has invited us to share this new life through the power of the Spirit. To be a member of the Church is, first and foremost, to be incorporated into the Body of Christ. In other words, we accept the loving invitation of Christ to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) “…and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). We offer our own bodies to be His body in the world. “Christ has no body on earth but ours,” said St. Teresa of Avila, “no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out upon the world, ours are the feet with which he goes about doing good, ours are the hands with which he blesses his people.” Jesus made it clear that our mission is to continue His mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).
We do the work of Christ not in His name only, but as Christ. Catholics believe Jesus rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit to join us to Himself. We share the same life, like a vine and its branches (John 15). It is all related, I just wanted to make sure. It is what Catholics call Sanctifying Grace. We are alive with the Spirit. We are alive as Christ’s presence in the world. In Scripture, St. Paul wrote it this way, “You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Because we are one with Christ, who is the Second Person of the Trinity, our destiny is eternal life in the heart of the Trinity, which we call Heaven.
In their lesson this week, your sons and daughters learned about the Sacraments of Initiation: those sacraments that make a person into a full member of the Church, empowering them with the Spirit to be the presence of Christ in the world. Those sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. In the words of Pope Francis, “Confirmation… must be understood in continuity with Baptism, to which it is inseparably linked. These two Sacraments, together with the Eucharist, form a single saving event—called ‘Christian initiation’—in which we… become new creatures and members of the Church.”
Confirmation is an invitation, not an obligation. In Confirmation, a Christian is given the gift of the Holy Spirit, an invisible gift made known by the visible sign we call a sacrament. When the bishop or his priest delegate. If verb, I would take it out, but leave it if it’s part of the priest’s title anoints the Christian’s head with the oil of chrism, this “laying on of hands” (see Acts 8:14-17) is the ancient sign that an invisible grace, or gift, is taking place. We continue to experience the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Risen Christ just as the first disciples did: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We sometimes say that Confirmation means a young person is accepting their faith as an adult, that this is a sacrament of maturity. This is only partially true. Your daughters and sons learned that in some Eastern Catholic Churches, as in the early Church, even babies receive all three Sacraments of Initiation at the same ceremony. If not a sacrament of maturity, then what is it? Confirmation is the sacrament of mission! We are empowered and commissioned to be witnesses to Christ in the world. For most of us who were baptized and received First Communion already, we are fully incorporated into the Church through Confirmation and called to be Christ’s body in a world that desperately continues to need His love, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and call to conversion. This is also why Confirmation should not be understood as a graduation. The students learned that in the early Church, initiation was followed by mystagogy. “This term, from the Greek word mystagogia (“interpretation of mystery”), implies continued learning… [during] your lifelong journey in faith.” Confirmation is a beginning, not an end. It implies a lifelong mission to allow Christ to work in us and through us for the sake of the world.
We cannot live as Christ’s disciples apart from the Church that Jesus founded on Peter and the Apostles. We can respect Jesus as a historical figure that way. We can be good humanitarians that way. But we are not really Christians without the third Sacrament of Initiation, the Eucharist. Gathering together with the other members of His Body, the Church comes together in the words of St. Augustine to “receive what you are and become what you receive.” At Mass, we receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist so that we can be the Body of Christ in the world. Our world needs His presence so much! By the gift and power of the Holy Spirit, we can become more and more Christ-like and more faithfully allow Christ to continue the work of redeeming the world through us.
So take a few minutes to discuss the lesson with your sons/daughters.
- Do they recognize that Confirmation is an invitation by Christ to do the work He did, or do they feel compelled to just jump through another hoop?
- Share with them how you try to be Christ’s presence in the world through your family, your work, your activities and causes, etc.
- Where is Christ’s presence needed in their daily life? Are there students bullied that they could stand up for? Are some students left out because of disabilities or because they are new to the school, and could they befriend them as Christ would?
- How has participation at Mass helped keep you connected to the Church and strengthened you and other family members?
- Why is the Church important to you? Why is their Confirmation important to you? Share your faith with them. Listen to their understanding as well. What does it mean to them?
Kevin Dowd is a doctoral candidate in theology and education at Boston College, where he also received his M.Ed. A graduate of Harvard University, Kevin has taught in Catholic schools and public schools in both Massachusetts and New York. Currently he teaches theology at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA and writes a weekly blog connecting the Sunday readings to life. You can read the blog at http://www.bayardinc.com/the-word-is-life/