A Priest’s Perspective: Sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
Many today understand the sacrament of confirmation as a “rite of passage,”, but it is much more than that. In baptism, the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts; in confirmation, we are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. As young people and converts receive this sacrament, they are strengthened by the Spirit to become faithful and courageous witnesses of Jesus and the Church. The gifts of the Spirit are stupendous realities, enabling us to live out the Gospel.
Before anointing with the oil of chrism, the bishop stretches out his hands over those to be confirmed and says a prayer that names each of these gifts, which first appear in Isaiah.
The first gift is wisdom, which enables us to see the goodness and greatness of the Lord. Wisdom fills life with flavor and helps us to be “salt of the earth,” preserving us and others from the corruption of sin. It enables us to instruct others in faith through the wisdom of the Church.
The second gift is understanding, given so we may comprehend the word of God and the truth of the faith. Our world is filled with the superficial and the ephemeral. God calls us to be persons of substance and integrity.
The Spirit bestows the gift of counsel, which guides us to discover God’s plan for our lives. God has made each of us for some definite purpose. He has a personal plan for our salvation. Confirmation is a time for carefully discerning our vocation by listening to God’s voice.
The Spirit strengthens us with the gift of fortitude to overcome the temptations of evil and to do good, even at the cost of making a sacrifice.
Next comes the gift of knowledge. This is not knowledge in the technical sense, but knowledge which teaches us to find in creation the signs and impressions of God, to understand how God speaks in every age and how He speaks to us personally, inspiring our daily work with Gospel values.
Another gift is that of piety, which keeps the flame of love for our heavenly Father alive in our hearts, so as to pray to Him daily with the trust and tenderness of beloved children. Piety helps us to remember the fundamental reality of the world and life: God exists and expects a response to His invitation.
The seventh gift is fear of the Lord. We should have reverence for Him and for all those made in His image and likeness. Today amid global crises, we see how important it is that each person should respect God and do His will. This fear of the Lord is not only a desire to do good or to carry out God’s will, but it also means being in awe in His marvelous Presence.
Returning to the gift of fortitude, I think of young people, who are under tremendous pressure; pressure to gain entrance into a good school; to be popular; to do well in sports. They face pressure with dating, sexuality, drugs and alcohol. Perhaps the most dangerous pressure they face is to believe these gifts of the Lord are make believe, a pious myth for simple and unscientific people.
Simon Peter, when Jesus was arrested, gave into the pressure. He tried to save himself. He denied the Lord three times. However, Jesus did not give up on him. He looked at Peter, and Peter wept bitterly. The Risen Lord returned to Peter and asked him thrice, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?”
This is what Jesus wants to know. Do we love Him? After Pentecost, and the great outpouring of the Spirit, Peter boldly proclaimed the Risen Lord. He willingly underwent suffering and did not cease speaking of Him, even when it landed him in chains. Peter was taught by the Spirit to put faith first. May we learn from him and be transformed by the power and gifts of the Spirit.
Father Earl Fernandes is the pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Cincinnati and holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.
This article appeared in the July 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.