For most of us, Confirmation is the sacrament which completes our initiation into the Church after our Baptism and First Holy Communion. Being a Christian is a great privilege from God, but it involves a great responsibility as well. The Church is the Lord’s instrument for reaching out to the rest of the world, continuing his work of saving and healing. The Church is us! We are all the Church, each and every one of us! In the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptised Christian is sent forth to the world as an official witness of Jesus, a living sign to the world of the real presence of God, the living Gospel for all to hear.
The person being confirmed is anointed with the oil of chrism, usually by the Bishop, as these words are said: ‘Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit’. The sacrament is a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who sets his seal upon the person and consecrates him or her for the Lord’s service.
Being confirmed is a kind of ordination. We are consecrated and officially commissioned as witnesses to the Lord, set apart to proclaim and live the Good News for others. This service of the Lord involves being his instrument in transforming the world here and now, as well as pointing people towards the coming kingdom. Being a confirmed Christian involves us in working for a better world, a world based on love, justice and peace.
Such a task requires strength and courage. That is why this sacrament is called a ‘confirmation’, a strengthening. It is our own personal Pentecost! The first disciples received the Holy Spirit in a way which banished their fears and sent them out full of faith to proclaim Jesus. The Spirit does not come to us as a mighty wind or as tongues of fire upon our heads (see Acts 2.1-13), but he does comes with the same strengthening and transforming power, giving each of us gifts (charisms) for the service of the Church.
The confirmed Christian is sent out as a light to the world, bringing the light of Jesus into the darkness of people’s lives. An Apostle with a tongue of fire on his head must have looked much like a candle! The confirmed Christian today is meant to be a living candle, bringing Jesus’ own light, warmth and love to others. Even a single candle can make a lot of difference in a dark room: the combined light of millions of Christians throughout the world could totally transform the darkness.
Isaiah wrote a few words which say a lot about confirmation, words which Jesus used about himself:
‘The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind, new sight;
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour’
(Isaiah 61.1; Luke 4.18)
Jesus says to the confirmed Christian: ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you’ and ‘Be my witnesses throughout the world’. How do we witness? By what we say and do, by the way we behave, by our care for others, and above all by coming to Mass. Each time we come to Mass, the Lord renews his presence in us and strengthens us with his Spirit, and we go from Mass to ‘love and to serve the Lord.’