Ninth in a series
By Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Special to The Texas Catholic
As we reflected recently, the sacrament of baptism initiates us into the life of God. Confirmation initiates us even deeper by bestowing on us the gift of the Holy Spirit and intensifies our life in God.
We read frequently in the New Testament about the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus when he is baptized in the river Jordan by John the Baptist. Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit several times in the Gospel such as when he is led into the desert to fast, pray, and be tempted in preparation for His great work of redemption. After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them, whose sins you retain, they are retained.”
The Apostles were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit who would conform them more to the image of Jesus, strengthen them to carry out the mission entrusted to them and guide them in the truth. The last words of Jesus to the Apostles were that they were to go out into the whole world, teach everything he had given them and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But even though the Apostles had been with Jesus for three years, seen his many miracles, and heard him teach, they were afraid to carry out that mission. It was not until they had received the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost that they were able to go out and boldly proclaim the good news of the Gospel. They witnessed to their faith before the world even to the point of giving their lives in martyrdom.
The Acts of the Apostles and the letter to the Hebrews describes the bestowing of the Holy Spirit by the Apostles to the early Christian communities. We are told that they preached the Good News, called for repentance from sin, baptized the early Christians, and then laid hands on them, bestowing the Holy Spirit. That laying on of hands is the sacrament of confirmation. The early Christians grew in numbers, witnessing to their faith, enduring persecution and even martyrdom in imitation of Jesus Christ.
We are given that same spirit in the sacrament of confirmation, which completes the effects of the sacrament of baptism in us. The Holy Spirit dispels our fear of living the new life we receive in baptism. It guides us in the truths of the Gospel and makes us even more into the likeness of Christ. All of us, as baptized and confirmed followers of Jesus Christ, are given all we need to witness to our faith in the world in which we live. The world needs to see us forgiving our neighbor, respecting all human life and reverencing the sanctity of marriage and the family. The world needs to see us helping our neighbor in need, saying our prayers, going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. We are evangelizers in our homes, our school, places of work and in our social lives. In confirmation, the bishop lays hands upon us and anoints us with sweet smelling oil, symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit whom we receive in this beautiful sacrament.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.”
The Most Rev. J. Douglas Deshotel is an auxiliary bishop, vicar general and the moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Dallas.