At the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, Parish of San Giovanni Battista al Collatino, Rome (May 18, 2013)
Dear brothers and sisters.
Dear confirmation recipients:
I was very happy to accept your pastor’s invitation to celebrate Holy Mass on the eve of the Solemnity of Pentecost, and now my joy is even greater because I am going to confer Confirmation on some of you. Thus you will become mature Christians, regardless of the age recorded on your birth certificates, because the Holy Spirit will come to dwell within you in a new way.
But who is the Holy Spirit? What is his role in the lives of Christians? These are not idle questions, since for many of those who have been baptized the answer is still almost unknown. Listen to the advice of St. Josemaria, that holy priest who loved you very much, even if he did not know you personally: “Get to know the Holy Spirit, the Great Unknown, the One Who has to sanctify you.”
We have listened to St. Luke’s words in the Acts of the Apostles. The coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete sent by Jesus on behalf of God the Father, was made manifest with great signs: a roaring and impetuous wind that made the house where they were gathered shake, tongues of flame that came to rest on the heads of our Lady, the apostles, and the other disciples gathered there in prayer.
The noise was heard everywhere, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem ran filled with curiosity to see what had happened. They were astonished when they saw Peter, John, Andrew and all the others completely transformed. Not only because each heard them speaking in his own language, but also because the fear they had shown up till then was now gone.
After Jesus’ death, the apostles had deserted the Master. All except John, the youngest of them, sustained by our Lady, who is a constant example of faithfulness and love; and also the holy women, who truly loved our Lord. Later, the disciples, when they had seen the risen Christ and spoken with him before his ascension to heaven, recovered their strength a little, but not completely. They continued to be fearful and stayed behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost radically changed this situation. No longer filled with fear, they became courageous, overcoming any fear of what others might think. They spoke openly to the crowd about Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, making clear to everyone that he was the Messiah Israel had awaited for so many centuries.
This transformation affected not only their conduct, but also their very way of speaking. Before, they had been people with little education; but from the moment they received the Holy Spirit, they began to speak of the great truths of Sacred Scripture in a way everyone could comprehend, and of the message Jesus had entrusted to them. And everyone understood what they were saying: Parthians, Greeks, Elamites, Arabs, Romans.… People of all languages were amazed at their words. Many converted, received baptism and became part of the Church. All of us, in order to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying, need to take care of our human, doctrinal, spiritual, and apostolic formation.
My dear brothers and sisters: the same power of God that was manifested on the day of Pentecost continues to be present today and will be present until the end of the world. The action of the Paraclete “is not a remembrance from the past, from some golden age of the Church which has since been buried in history. Despite the weaknesses and the sins of every one of us, it is the reality of today’s Church and of the Church of all time.”
The Church has suffered trials of every sort: persecutions to the point of martyrdom, calumnies, privations and misunderstandings of all kinds. Nevertheless, with the help of the Holy Spirit, nothing nor anyone has been or will be able to divert it from the fulfillment of its purpose: the glorification of God and the salvation of souls, carried out with a joy the world cannot give.
Within a short time, some of you will receive the Chrism, that is, the Sacrament of Confirmation. It has received this name because it will strengthen your faith and reinforce in you the grace you received in Baptism, in order to be the Church and to do Church. From today on you will have the mission—which implies a beautiful responsibility—to make Christ present without fear or vacillation, in the midst of your families, among your school or work companions, among your friends, knowing also how to go against the current, if necessary, in ways of dressing, in conversations, in entertainment, and so on. How are you going to do this? First of all, by your good example, by your truly Christian behavior in each setting; and also by your words, speaking to people about Jesus and about the joy of being Christians, about the happiness we experience when we are close to him through the grace that we receive in Confession and in Communion: don’t neglect these means which are necessary for all of us.
A few days ago, Pope Francis addressed a confirmation group with these words: “Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses.” Let us correspond generously at every moment to the vocation we have received from God, trying to discover his presence and action in our ordinary life. “It is worthwhile putting our lives on the line,” wrote St. Josemaría, “giving ourselves completely, so as to answer to the love and the confidence that God has placed in us. It is worthwhile, above all, to decide to take our Christian faith seriously.”
Before concluding I would like to make a suggestion to all of you. The solemnity of Pentecost, the very fact of being present at the Confirmation of these children, relatives and friends of yours, is a pressing invitation to live your Christian vocation fully. This involves, in first place, a call to become holy as our heavenly Father is holy. Speak with our Lord every day, speak with him about your daily life; you will be happier and more serene!
Our Lady prayed with the disciples and taught them to pray while awaiting Pentecost. Today we can ask Mary to teach us to pray in the same way, to follow Jesus closely. Let us listen to the voice of the Holy Father. “Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!” Thus we will become courageous people, capable of truly aspiring to sanctity in our daily life, as the first disciples did. Let us too strive, as they did, to lead many more people to a closer friendship with Jesus.
Praised be Jesus Christ!