Preaching on Pentecost Sunday, Father Jim Northrop shares the down-side of receiving confirmation without proper preparation, and offers hope and concrete suggestions for a renewal of our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Flowing from the great joy of Joseph's confirmation on Ascension Thursday came a few insights into the tremendous cascade of grace possible through this sacrament. Confirmation completes Christian initiation and infuses us with the Holy Spirit, flooding our souls with graces and gifts to support us on our mission. Celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost 9 days after Ascension (& confirmation) allowed each one of us (if properly disposed and willing) to receive anew the gifts and graces of our own confirmations and baptisms.
A Protestant friend who could not attend Joseph's confirmation sent a card instead. Curiously, the words of congratulations were tampered with a great big 'IF:"
I remember when I was confirmed. I was 12 years old and I thought I was just graduating from my Sunday School classes! I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about! I believed all the right doctrines~ but nothing happened in my heart~ so there was no real faith to confirm!
It wasn't until I was 16 that someone told me how I could know Jesus personally. I decided then that I wanted to follow Him~ and I've never looked back.
The confirmation of true faith is a doorway to a meaningful and abundant life; it's a decision you'll never regret. If that's what's in your heart, Joseph~ to follow Jesus, to live your life for Him~ then I commend you. And I wish you all God's best and His richest blessings as you live each day for Him.At first read, the card's remarks were a bit shocking. Reading 'between the lines' seemed to reveal the sender's doubt that someone being confirmed in the Catholic Church could have the "true" faith. After prayerful consideration, I've come to appreciate the card's undercurrent of apostolic zeal.
It's almost as if our Protestant friend was privy to the pre-Pentecost preaching of Pope Francis. Warning us repeatedly not to fall into the trap of being lukewarm Christians, Pope Francis urged us to be like Saint Paul and step out of our comfort zones to reach out with the love of God to everyone:
Paul is a nuisance: he is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable, it threatens our comfort zones – even Christian comfort zones, right? It irritates us. The Lord always wants us to move forward, forward, forward ... not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures, no?... And Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance. But he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes: Apostolic zeal. He had its apostolic zeal. He was not a man of compromise. No! The truth: forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward! .
There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and Apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church, the grace to go out to the outskirts of life. The Church has so much need of this! Not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ. So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of Apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, ‘take courage!' ~ Pope Francis
Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/16/pope_at_mass:_an_apostolic_nuisance/en1-692628 of the Vatican Radio websi
We know, with absolute~Biblical~certainty, that the fullness of Truth resides in the one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church founded by Christ Himself (1 Timothy 3:15). We believe~Biblically~that Jesus remains physically, visibly present in every Catholic Church in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist (John 6:53-58). From the day of the Last Supper, our priests, by the power of the Holy Spirit conferred at ordination, transform ordinary bread and wine into the Real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
When we are confirmed in this Truth, anointed, we are fully prepared to defend and proclaim it with love and conviction by our lives. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit should lead us to a greater love for our Lord Jesus and a deep conviction to follow wherever He may lead. Unfortunately, as Father Jim Northrop outlined in his powerful Pentecost homily (linked above), many Catholics are not taught to receive the sacrament of confirmation in a state of grace (confessing and repenting) and so may be spiritually dead at the time. This need not be a permanent state of spiritual misery, for when we approach the Lord in a spirit of repentance and confess our sins, God in His mercy will restore us to full stature. Then we can begin to pray earnestly for graces and our prayers will be answered.
If this awesome Truth sounds annoying, blessed be the Lord!
Our Protestant friend, a believer and a follower of Christ to be sure, (and a very nice person to boot) has yet to accept the Biblical fact that Jesus really did leave us with a visible authority on earth. To this day~ despite relentless attacks and countless harms brought by sin from within and without~ our Church has been protected from the gates of hell, as promised.
Our true faith is indeed a 'doorway to a meaningful and abundant life' and we hope and pray that those who won't come near it for fear or misunderstanding will open their hearts to the prompting of the Holy Spirit; and that those who are in it will embrace the fullness of faith and enter more fully into an abundant life in the Holy Spirit.