Understanding Confirmation: The Sacrament of the Church’s Mission
Pentecost: the Gift of the Holy Spirit
“‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21). This is the scene of Pentecost in the Gospel According to John. The same encounter with the Lord, and the same gift of the Holy Spirit, is evident in the Church’s liturgical rite of Confirmation: “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit….Peace be with you.” Confirmation is the sacrament of the Church’s mission, which brings the saving presence of Jesus Christ to the world.
A Sacrament of Mission to the World
In a particular way, the Holy Spirit gives life to Church by making present the saving action of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery in the sacraments. The Holy Spirit, a special outpouring of whom is given in Confirmation, enables the Body of Christ to be active in the world. The Holy Spirit, gives the Church strength and stamina to continue the work of Christ. Catholics are anointed with the Holy Spirit so that they can be instruments of the “Anointed One” (i.e., the Christ) in the world. In the Pentecost scene in the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Church (20:21).
Thus the Church’s mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Spirit is the source of the Church’s renewal, and the impulse to exterior mission. This is the meaning of the Church’s mission inaugurated at Pentecost (see John 20:21, Acts 2:1–13).
Thus the Sacrament of Confirmation is a moment of initiation into the Church, for the purpose of mission to the world.
By the Sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”
The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. What is true for the Church as a whole is true for her individual members. As Pope Benedict noted in a personal reflection, the Holy Spirit affects not only our actions, but also our being. The Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ—particularly through his gifts and fruits—so that we can make Christ present in the world by our prayers, words, and actions.
**Excerpts taken from Catholic Diocese of Richmond,Diocesan Policy and Guidelines for Preparation of Baptized Adolescents to Receive the Sacrament of Confirmation