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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Confirmation: The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Yet truly, once they had believed Philip, who was evangelizing the kingdom of God, both men and women were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ... And now, seeing also the greatest signs and miracles being wrought, he was amazed and stupefied. Now when the Apostles who were in Jerusalem had heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
And when they had arrived, they prayed for them, so that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:12, 14-15

In the Roman rite, Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are normally celebrated for adults who are baptized during Easter. This is why these three sacraments are called sacraments of initiation. 
While adults normally receive confirmation with baptism, children receive confirmation at a later age. No matter when a person receives this, this sacrament seals the person with the gift of the Holy Spirit. In modern times as in the time of the apostles, a document with a seal identifies the document as belonging to the sender and carries with it the authority of the sender. The seal given at confirmation is a mark in one’s soul signifying that the person belongs to God and carries with them the authority of God.
The biblical basis for this is Acts 8, where the Apostles Peter and John went to Samaria to lay their hands on those that were baptized by the deacon Philip. This shows that this sacrament is administered only by the apostles and their successors. Today, the bishops are the only ones who can administer the sacrament because they are the successors of the apostles. (They can delegate this to a priest only on certain situations). 
In the sacrament, the bishop anoints the person to be confirmed with Chrism oil and lays his hands on the person to be confirmed and prays that the Holy Spirit will descend on the person. Then the bishop tells the person “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. With this, the bishop officially marks the person as belonging to God.
A more knowledgeable person may ask why there is a need to give the Holy Spirit when we have received him already at baptism. This is an excellent question. To help explain this, I would like to use an example. 
A child in a mother’s womb already has life. Although the child can interact with the outside world, he still is limited to the mother’s womb. The life is full, but the interaction with others is limited. Once the child is born, he interacts with the outside world more fully. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is given at baptism, but the person’s ability to encounter God is still limited. The limit here is not in the Holy Spirit but in the person’s ability. Confirmation completes that gift, not because the grace given at baptism is incomplete, but the person receiving the gift now has greater ability to encounter Christ.
It is quite sad that there are many people who have ignored this sacrament. If you have not been confirmed yet, talk to your pastor so that you can have the grace to encounter God in a special way.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them, the fire of your love.

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