Adult Confirmations 2023
Bishop Rhoades delivered the following homily at Mass in which he administered the sacrament of Confirmation to adults on the Solemnity of Pentecost on Sunday, May 28, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne:
Today, Pentecost Sunday, the feast in which we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at the very beginning of the Church, is the perfect day to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. At this Mass, 30 adults will be confirmed. Last evening, I confirmed 62 adults at Saint Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. The readings for the Vigil of Pentecost and for today, Pentecost Sunday, are different. That’s unusual because normally the Saturday vigil Mass readings and the Sunday readings are the same. Last evening, the account of the first Pentecost that we heard this morning from the Acts of the Apostles was not read, the account of the Holy Spirit descending as tongues of fire upon the disciples. So, the image of the Holy Spirit as fire was not presented in the readings. Instead, the Gospel last evening presented another image or symbol of the Holy Spirit — water. On this great feast of the Holy Spirit, it is good to think of both images — fire and water — because both help us to understand the mission and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In the Gospel last evening, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as life-giving water. It was on the last day of the 7-day Jewish feast of Tabernacles. This joyful feast took place during the time of the harvest and the people would pray to God to send abundant rain upon their fields for the next season. On the last of the seven days of the feast, the priests and people would bring water from a spring south of the temple and pour the water on the altar, a sign of their awaiting the abundant rains that they prayed God would send on their fields. At that dramatic moment, Jesus stood up and cried out: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.” Saint John tells us that Jesus “said this is reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive.”
My brothers and sisters, Jesus came to bring us eternal life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. After He died on the cross, when the soldier pierced His side with a lance, blood and water flowed forth — the blood of Jesus (which we receive in the Holy Eucharist) and the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit (which is bestowed on us in Baptism and increased at Confirmation). The rivers of living water bring forth various fruits in our daily lives when we drink from this water, when we live by the Holy Spirit, when we follow His inspirations, when we live the graces we receive at Baptism and Confirmation. It is good to remember these fruits of the Holy Spirit listed by Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Dear candidates for Confirmation, you were already born into the divine life when you were baptized. You received the new life of Christ. The Holy Spirit, the living water, was poured forth into your souls. You became temples of the Holy Spirit. God’s life is within you. You already have this living water that wells up to eternal life. So why do you need to be confirmed? I would say because we need not only the water of the Holy Spirit, but also the fire of the Holy Spirit! The sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon them as tongues of fire. Confirmation brings an increase and a deepening of the graces we received at Baptism. We receive a special strength from the Holy Spirit at Confirmation to spread and defend the faith by our words and actions as true witnesses of Christ. Confirmation completes Baptism. It makes us “complete” Christians. Confirmation gives us special strength to witness to and glorify God with our whole lives. It helps us to allow God’s love to burn within us so that we spread it. We need this special outpouring of the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire for our mission as disciples of Jesus. Think about how the apostles, after the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost, were filled with the courage and strength for their mission to evangelize the world. That’s when the Church’s mission began and it’s why we call Pentecost the birthday of the Church.
Candidates, you will renew your baptismal promises before you are confirmed. You will renounce Satan and profess your faith in God, the same renunciations and profession that your parents and godparents made for you when you were baptized, if you were baptized before the age of reason. But now you will make these promises for yourselves. Then, I will anoint you with the sacred chrism with the sign of the cross. The Holy Spirit gives us the fortitude we need to carry the cross as Jesus calls us to do, to endure the difficulties and sufferings of our earthly life, and to love one another as He has loved us.
I’ve spoken about the Holy Spirit, the images of water and fire, and the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. I would like to end with a word about the third sacrament of initiation, the Holy Eucharist. These three sacraments are complementary and really inseparable. In order to grow in our Christian life, we need to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, we are baptized and confirmed with a view to the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. Our celebration today would not be complete if we just ended with the celebration of Confirmation, without the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in our souls at Baptism and who strengthens us at Confirmation will descend on the elements of bread and wine on the altar, making them the body and blood of Jesus Christ, food for our souls. The saints whom you have chosen as your Confirmation names were all men and women who lived by the Spirit, who opened themselves to the graces of their Baptism and Confirmation, and who also were nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. That’s how they became saints. And that’s my prayer for all of you will be confirmed today, that, strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation today, and nourished by the great gift of the Holy Eucharist throughout your lives, you too will become saints!