Confirmation – sacrament of the Holy Spirit

5th Sunday after Easter
Beloved in Jesus Christ, the first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles. During this Easter season, we have been reading a lot from the Acts of the Apostles, it is the story of the early Church. By reading this great book, we can get some insights into the early Church.
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For example, in Acts chapter 8, it tells us that there were some people who had only been baptized, but they had never received the Holy Spirit, so the apostles went there, laid hands on them and prayed, and they received the Holy Spirit. The same thing happened in Acts chapter 19; some people were baptized, and in a separate action, St. Paul, praying, laid hands on them, and it says ‘they received the Holy Spirit.’
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We can see from these events, that in addition to baptism, a separate action is necessary, for a person to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit; the east calls this ‘chrismation,’ we call it Confirmation. The Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the 7 sacraments of the Church, and as we have seen, it has been the practice of the faith since the time of the Apostles.
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Confirmation really completes baptism, and we might say that it is the ‘sacrament of the Holy Spirit.’ In the early church, it was a common practice, that after a person was baptized by the bishop, he would then immediately receive Confirmation, even a baby. But as the Church grew quickly, the bishop was not able to be there for every baptism, and so the custom began that the priest would baptize, and then later the bishop would come and administer Confirmation.
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When the bishop does this, hands are laid on the person, a prayer calls down the Holy Spirit, and then the person is anointed with Sacred Chrism. Sacred Chrism is one of the 3 oils used in the sacraments. The three oils are: the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens, and Sacred Chrism.
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Sacred Chrism is used in the 3 sacraments that permanently change you: baptism, confirmation, and holy orders. You can only receive these sacraments once, because a permanent change occurs in your soul. In baptism, you are permanently made into a Christian, a child of God, a member of the Church, and that can never be changed. Even if you become a bad Christian, ignore the faith, or worse – you are still a child of God, a member of the Church. When a man is ordained a priest, he is permanently a priest, it can never be changed. Even if he would become a loser priest or even suspended by the bishop, he’s still a priest.
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So what is the permanent change in a person who receives Confirmation? We can say that if in baptism the person became a child of God, in Confirmation the person becomes a soldier of God. This means we are given a new strength of the Holy Spirit to stand up for Christ, to defend the Holy Faith, to be a witness. By baptism we are a child, by confirmation a mature and brave Christian. A child is not expected to defend their home, but an adult is. A confirmed Catholic is expected to always stand up for the true teachings of Holy Mother Church.
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These days, we often have chances to speak about the true moral way of life – even when such words are not popular. Confirmation gives us an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for the express purpose of standing for Christ, even if it would mean giving our life. We see this in the middle east, many people giving their life for Christ.
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I was thinking about all the martyrs who gave their life. St. Lucy came to mind, she was in such a situation. She was brought before the proconsul and ordered to give up her faith; she was required to comply with the law of the Empire.
But Lucy responded: ‘You obey your master’s laws, I shall obey the laws of my God.’
Proconsul: ‘I will have you tortured to death.’
Lucy: ‘I am ready for every torture. I offer myself to the Lord.’
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And so she did. It was the power of the Holy Spirit, alive in her, that gave her the strength to stand for Christ, giving her life. Her name is mentioned to this very day in the 1st Eucharistic prayer – because she is an example for us. We need the power of Confirmation, these Gifts of the Holy Spirit, to help us be strong and true Catholics in the midst of a confused and even hostile society.
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A young woman told me that in her high school, one of her teachers is an atheist, and is always finding little ways to criticize the Catholic Church, distorting history lessons, and even making up lies. She said, ‘Father, I was not going to take that, I spoke up and told him he was wrong.’
‘And you got away with that?,’ I asked.
‘Father, I’m the smartest in my class!’
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This is the power of the Holy Spirit. In just a few weeks we will celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the entire Church. We must all act by the movement of the Holy Spirit. As we read today in the Acts of the Apostles, even though great pressure was being put on the Church – even though the authorities were trying to silence the faith – it says that ‘with the consolation of the Holy Spirit, the Church continued to grow,’ — as it still does today.
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We are to be other Christs in this world, other Jesus’s. By the power of the Sacraments we are strengthened to live the Christ life, even when it is counter-cultural, when it is not popular. Jesus tells us in the gospel, that he is like a vine, like a grapevine, for example. We are the branches of that vine. But for the branches to live, and grow, and produce fruit, we need the sap and the nutrients coming from the main vine. We need the power of the Holy Spirit flowing from Christ into our souls, for power.
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Although we receive the Holy Spirit in our souls at baptism, we receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with new graces, at our Confirmation. But we must act on these graces for them to become fruitful, we must pray daily, to remain connected to the vine, that is Christ.
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St. Paul sums up our role in today’s world. ‘Be blameless and innocent children of God,’ he says, ‘in the mist of a twisted and perverse generation, for among them you must shine like stars in the world.’
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We must shine like stars. It isn’t always easy.
But if our commitment to the Lord’s way is sometimes weak, we can always call on another advocate who will help us: Mary.
Mary is known as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and if we remain close to her, she will help us to remain faithful to God. In ancient times, if a sailor was losing his way and it was getting dark, he could look for that special star, by which he could be guided to port. Mary has been called the Star of the Sea. In old paintings, you will often see a single star on her veil. She is the star who keeps us on the right path, keeps us close to the Holy Spirit, if we ask her.
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O Mary, star of the sea, pray for me.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Agatha]

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