The Sacrament of Christian mission
I love these weeks of the Easter season as we await the Ascension of our Lord and the sending of his Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Since the early days of the Church, this time has been the time associated with Confirmation, the great Sacrament of Christian commitment.
And in these weeks since Easter, I’ve had the joy and privilege of conferring this Sacrament on adult converts at our Cathedral and young people in many parishes all over the Archdiocese. My brother bishops are also celebrating Confirmations throughout the Archdiocese. It is a blessing for all of us to be able to share the gift of the Holy Spirit with our people.
Confirmation is a beautiful Sacrament — a mighty work of God that anoints us with his Spirit and presses us to deeper dedication to serving his Church.
For me, Baptism is the Sacrament of Easter and Confirmation is the Sacrament of the Ascension and Pentecost. Baptism makes us sharers in the life of Jesus. Confirmation makes us sharers in his mission.
Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven are words of commissioning: “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”
His Ascension gives the Church her mission — to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth until he comes again.
His Ascension gives us a mission. And Confirmation is the Sacrament of our Christian mission.
We can’t say this enough: our lives have a deep and beautiful purpose in God’s plan.
As he poured out his Spirit at Pentecost, God pours his Spirit into our hearts at Baptism to make us his children and members of his family, the Church. In Confirmation, he once more sends his Spirit to place his “seal” on our hearts — consecrating us and strengthening us to serve his Church’s mission.
Baptism initiates us into the life and purposes of God. Confirmation binds us more closely to his Church, and into service to the Church’s mission of mercy.
In this Sacrament, we see God’s love and his care for our lives.
Pope Francis reminds us, “This is the work of the Holy Spirit … He comes to us and makes all things new. He changes us. The Spirit changes us!”
Through his Spirit, given to us in Baptism and again in Confirmation, God is working to change us into the image of his Son, to make us more and more like Jesus. So that we can love like Jesus and forgive like Jesus and serve like Jesus. So that we can be his witnesses.
And in changing us, God wants to transform the world.
Jesus came to bring a new heaven and a new earth, a Kingdom of love and truth, the family of God. And he is calling us to help him. To spread his teaching with courage and creativity, by our word and example.
Jesus wants us to help him to redeem that little part of the world that we live in — our homes, the places where we work, our schools and neighborhoods. He calls us to sanctify our reality and our relationships, so that everything reflects a little more the glory of God and his plans for the human family.
In this mission we are not alone. We are walking every day with Jesus by our side. And we are always walking in the company of the Holy Spirit.
In giving us his Spirit, he makes our Christian life a life of joy and love.
Joy in knowing that we are children of God, walking with Jesus, our brother, working with him to accomplish what he wants in this world. Love in living for others, not ourselves; doing everything for the love of God and the love of our brothers and sisters.
So this week, as we celebrate our Lord’s Ascension and prepare for Pentecost, let’s pray for one another. Let’s pray to have deeper gratitude for the gift of our Confirmation, and a new commitment to Christ and the mission of his Church.
As we wait for Pentecost, we should open our hearts more to the Holy Spirit and ask him to come and renew his seven gifts within us — the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel; the gifts of fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.
And may Our Blessed Mother Mary help us to welcome the Spirit as she did and live as children of God and true witnesses to his love in our lives.
Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.