During a recent Confirmation, I began my homily reflection by asking a question. If Jesus came here today and allowed you to ask for whatever you wanted, what would be the first thing to come to your mind?
In the Old Testament, we see God appear to Solomon in a dream to ask a very similar question. Here is Solomon, a famous King, with the Kingdom at his disposal, people at his service, an army — everything the world could offer. Yet, what he desires is an understanding heart to better lead the people. “Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours” (1 Kings 3:9)? God was pleased and granted the request recognizing what Solomon sought benefitted his people; it was for the common good.
When I consider this reading with respect to Confirmation, I think of that moment when I evoke the Gifts of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of my hands. I will ask God, the Father, to confer on you — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are similar to those Solomon sought so to judge and guide the people wisely, abilities that made him unlike anyone before or after him. The Spirit of God changed Solomon, so does the sacrament of Confirmation, change those who receive it.
If our Confirmation, a life with Christ, does not change us, we have missed something. Instead of asking God what you want from him, perhaps we can reverse the question and ask the Lord what he wants from us? What can we do to make ourselves and our world better? How can we use these Gifts of the Holy Spirit to make a difference, to build a better world, witnesses to the truth of the teachings of Christ, to be witnesses to his Gospel?
The message shared with the Confirmation students pertains to each one of us. At another recent Confirmation celebration, I shared six words that I believe not only give voice to many of our concerns but also illuminates how faith in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, provides comfort and strength for these times. The six words are:
- Vulnerability. This virus, unrest and protests in our country, unemployment, closed schools, have all revealed how vulnerable we can be.
- Uncertainty. So many questions can still not be answered. When will this end? What will the future look like? The lack of knowing what each day will bring may leave many of us uncomfortable, unsure, and even anxious.
- Fear. A new, unknown virus, such as COVID-19, causes us to fear. We may be worried about getting sick, dying, losing loved ones. There is also the fear produced when our financial stability is threatened by worries about losing or finding a job.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit conferred at Confirmation offer the faithful the wisdom, understanding, counsel, and courage needed to navigate every trial encountered in life.
- Faith. During our Confirmation as well as at Easter, we renew our Baptismal Promises. We confirm that we do believe. If we believe, then we must live unafraid, confident in God’s great love for us.
- Change – When the Holy Spirit comes, things change, as it happened when He came upon the Apostles at Pentecost.
- Witness – Jesus said, he has come to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD …to comfort all who mourn. Bestowed with the power of the Holy Spirit, we now as his disciples—go and do likewise.
My dear friends, let us rejoice that the sacraments can once again be celebrated together, even if those able to be present remains limited. Let us rejoice and embrace the gifts God so generously gives each of us. The extraordinary gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding needed to be instruments of God’s grace, love, and peace to this world so much in need. God bless each one of you, may He bless your family, and your parish communities. May God bless all of you so that the gifts of the Holy Spirit shine in your life and guide your steps every day.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha