At the confirmation ceremony celebrated in the parish of St. Josemaria, Rome (October 26, 2003)
My dear brothers and sisters:
1. Those of you about to receive confirmation have prepared for this day helped by your families, your catechism teachers, and your parish priests, who have accompanied you diligently on your path. You have had the opportunity to grow in your knowledge of the basics of our faith, to learn to participate more attentively in the Church’s liturgical celebrations, and to lead a Christian life consistent with the Gospel.
Now, through the sacrament of confirmation, the work of baptism is being perfected in you. You will receive “the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” The Paraclete, God with us, will impart to you a fuller likeness to Christ and unite you more firmly, as living members, to his Mystical Body, the Church. You, who have already been consecrated to God in baptism, will now received the strength of the Holy Spirit, and you will be signed on the forehead with the seal of the Cross.
Thus you will bring to the world the witness of our crucified and risen Lord, and you will be strengthened by the Spirit to struggle against sin. Your life, enriched by the fruits of the Spirit, will spread, as St. Paul says, the good aroma of Christ (2 Cor 2:15), for the spiritual growth of the whole Church
2. The sacrament of confirmation imprints upon Christians an indelible seal, which makes us witnesses to Christ in the task of bringing to all men and women the joyful news of the Gospel. The most tangible sign of this new presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s soul is found precisely in our daring and joy in speaking about God to the people we know. The apostles, before receiving the Holy Spirit, fled in fright from the enemies of God. But after Pentecost they give themselves up to be imprisoned, and end up giving their lives joyfully in witness to their faith. As St. Josemaría wrote, even without talent, fame or fortune, we can be effective instruments in the service of God and the Church, if we ask the Holy Spirit to give us his gifts.
Don’t you find yourselves moved by this immense panorama? The first reading gives us words from the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks of the return of the people of Israel after long years of exile in Babylon. “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, The Lord has saved his people” (Jer 31:7).
Yes, my brothers and sisters, our Lord has saved all mankind. As a pledge of his benevolence he communicates to us his Spirit in confirmation; and he gives himself to us, with his Body and Blood, his Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. Thus we can share in the responsorial psalm’s enthusiasm when it recounts the return of the exiles to their homeland: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad” (Ps 126:2-3).
Christians, too, who have received so many good things from heaven, should always taste this joy, even amid the difficulties and sufferings of this life. God’s grace will never be lacking. A joy that is born in the depths of our heart, where the Holy Trinity dwells, and that is transmitted to those around us.
I am thinking of so many people, both young people and adults, who are close to you at school or your place of work, who are your relatives or neighbors. Some of them no longer pray or go to Church. They need someone to give them an example of a Christian life lived without any complexes: the example of other young people who, like themselves, are good students, loyal friends, good sons and daughters; but who are also able to resist what is evil because they know that only when one is at peace with God can one truly be happy. The sacrament that you are about to receive will give you the strength to be witnesses in the world to our crucified and risen Lord.
3. We come to the last point of our meditation. Let us take up St. Mark’s Gospel, which tells us the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man who was begging at the side of the road as Jesus walked by. “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’”
Those being confirmed, and all of you who are listening to me: I tell you that today, as every day, Jesus is passing close by. Call out to him with cries from the depths of your heart! Strive to go out to meet him, to detain him! He is always ready to cure us, to cleanse our wounds, to wipe away our sins. It is precisely for this purpose that he left us the sacrament of penance.
Perhaps our passions will rise up and try to dissuade us, like those persons who tried to silence Bartimaeus. Don’t pay any attention to them. St. Josemaría, commenting on this Gospel passage, tells us to act as Bartimaeus did, when we sense that Jesus is passing close by us. “Your heart beat faster and you too began to cry out, prompted by an intimate longing. Then your friends, the need to do the done thing, the easy life, your surroundings, all conspired to tell you: ‘Keep quiet, don’t cry out. Who are you to be calling Jesus? Don’t bother him.’
“But poor Bartimaeus would not listen to them. He cried out all the more: ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Our Lord, who had heard him right from the beginning, let him persevere in his prayer. He does the same with you. Jesus hears our cries from the very first, but he waits. He wants us to be convinced that we need him. He wants us to beseech him, to persist, like the blind man waiting by the road from Jericho.” The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of fortitude and of love, will help us to do so, if we go to him with confidence.
Still fresh in our memory is the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of John Paul II as successor of St. Peter. Today we want to give thanks to God for the fruits of his pontificate, and we have committed ourselves to pray even more for the Holy Father and his intentions. For all of us he is a living example of how to follow Christ when He passes close by us: with complete dedication, without seeking excuses, without hiding because of our age, our sickness, our many occupations. Jesus comes to meet us at every moment of our life to ask for our response, and he gives us the grace of the Holy Spirit to assist us. Let us be generous in responding!
All of this will become a reality if, with the help of God, who is present in your soul, you strive to behave as consistent Christians in your work, in your studies, with your family, among your friends. We all have to fight against our defects. Then the Holy Spirit will bring about in you virtues whose fruit will be the conversion of so many of your friends and companions.
Let us turn to our Lady. No human being has ever been as filled with the Holy Spirit as Mary. Let us ask the mother of Christ and our mother to always sustain our desire to truly become like her Son, to welcome Him into our personal life, to bring Christ’s peace to so many people, helping them to share in the holy sacraments. Amen.