Gifted with the Spirit: Confirmation
Junior High, Lesson #2 “Accepting God’s Call”
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Sponsors:
Confirmation is an invitation, not an obligation. Sometimes we hear false statements that turn a sacrament of mission into a compulsory hoop to jump through. For example, I have heard people tell our youth that they need to be Confirmed so that later they can get married in the Church. That isn’t true. The only reason to be Confirmed is a personal decision to accept the challenge of Christ: “[Jesus] said to them again, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21).
Today, your daughters and sons studied the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We have heard it so many times that it may lose its bite. When Jesus told the story, he had just given the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:25-28). One man, a legal scholar, asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable about a man beat up, robbed, and left to die in a ditch. Two people that his listeners would have expected to be the heroes of the story—a priest and a Levite—crossed the road and kept on walking without offering any help at all. The third man to arrive was a Samaritan. To the Jews, the Samaritans were enemies with a corrupt religion. Yet, Jesus says the Samaritan—the expected enemy to the Jewish man in the ditch—stopped and helped the man, even paying for his recovery time at a local inn. When Jesus asked “Who was the neighbor to this man?” the questioner couldn’t even bring himself to say it was the despised Samaritan. Instead, he simply said, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus replied, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:29-37).
The word “confirmation” means “with strength.” In this sacrament, the Church calls upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen our young people in their faith. We pray that they will be strong enough to be Good Samaritans in the world—caring for the whole of God’s creation—and not selfish or self-righteous individuals. The gift of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than God dwelling in us, enlightening our consciences, strengthening our faith, and empowering us against temptation. Ultimately, salvation is an eternal sharing in the life of God, the perfect life of absolute and unending love. We cannot enter into God’s life on our own; but God welcomes us into the very heart of the Trinity. Nothing sinful can exist in the heart of God, for sin is the absence or corruption of love, and so we need a Redeemer. Christ alone is capable of destroying sin and restoring us to innocence and purity. He is our Redeemer. The Spirit He gives to us is the Spirit of love between the Father and the Son. It is more powerful than sin. It is more powerful than death. By faith, we embrace this life in the Spirit so that we can be ever more capable of giving and receiving love, becoming like God. This is what saints are, and what we are called to be. “The goal of a virtuous life,” said St. Gregory of Nyssa “is to become like God.”
A virtuous life is a life built on the solid foundation of the love of God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The students took another look at The Ten Commandments today. Here they are in brief (see Exodus 20:2-17 for one place in Scripture where they appear):
- I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of slavery, you shall have no other gods besides Me.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions.
Along with the Ten Commandments, the students looked at the Beatitudes. Taken from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes are sometimes called the Charter for the Kingdom of God or the Magna Carta of Christianity. They represent the qualities Jesus expects to see in His followers and the promises of discipleship. Here they are for your reflection as well:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:3-12).
What we hope for our young people and ourselves is to grow in virtue. Simply put, virtue is a spiritual muscle that is strong because we put it to work. In other words, a virtue is a habit of doing the right thing, which then makes doing the right thing easier and easier over time. The opposite, a vice, is a habit of doing something that is wrong, making it harder and harder to do the right thing. Since we are such creatures of habit, virtues are essential for living the Christian life. Associating with others who are committed to what is good helps us to be good too. That is partly what the Church is meant to be. In communion with other believers, we strengthen our faith and our commitment to good works done out of love.
To be a member of the Church means accepting responsibilities as a member. Traditionally, we call the summary of these duties The Precepts of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2042-43).
- To attend Mass on Sundays and all holy days of obligation; and to rest from servile work.
- To confess one’s sins at least once a year.
- To receive the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
- To observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
- To help provide for the needs of the Church.
Without the Church, the message of Christ would not have been handed down across 2,000 years. Will it continue to be handed down? In Jesus’ own words, “Will there be any faith?” (cf. Luke 18:8).
So we ask the young people: Do you accept the challenge of this life and this mission in life? Are you willing to be an active member of the Church as it continues the work of Jesus? If so, then receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation to strengthen you in the life of love and service to God and neighbor.
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/