I was raised by very devote Southern Baptists parents. I entered the Catholic Church in 1995 by a series of experiences that would be a long story and better left for another reflection. In 1996 I was asked to help with our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program by which non-Catholics (as I was) enter the Church. During an orientation meeting for parishioners who would help with the program, the priest asked a question, “what is a sacrament?” I had spent a lot of time reading and studying Catholicism and was surprised that I did not have an answer. Sacraments, like Baptism and the Eucharist are at the heart of what we do. We should think about that. A friend of mine, who was also preparing to help with RCIA, raised her hand and said, “Jesus Christ.” Although a severe simplification, I have come to see this as quite accurate. The Church teaches us that, “The liturgy is the work of the whole Christ, head and body.” (CCC 1187). Every celebration of a sacrament is an encounter with God.
We all see that in Mass and Confession. Especially now, with the virus precautions where we can’t go to Mass. People feel the lack of God in their lives. We still have Confession and, in my experience, over the last few weeks more people come. I believe that this crisis is a time to think more deeply about our relationship with God. What do the other sacraments mean to me? During Easter season, spring, we approach the feast of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit on the Church. We receive the Holy Spirit every time we participate in a sacramental action, at our Baptism, in Confession, Communion and so on.
We receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in a profound way in the sacrament of Confirmation, “by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC1285, Lumen Gentium 11). Confirmation is not the same as baptism. Sometimes people ask me, quite reasonably, where is that in the bible? There is an interesting passage in Acts of the Apostles that we read on the Sixth Week of Easter (Acts 8:14 – 17). To summarize, deacons went out, preaching the word and baptizing people. They would then send for apostles (we can read bishops) to come, lay hands on the baptized, and grant Confirmation.
For most of us Confirmation was a long time ago, but we should think about what that moment in our life meant. Every sacrament is an encounter with God, but we don’t celebrate sacraments by ourselves. We can’t baptize ourselves. Priests need to go to Confession to another priest. The gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation is not for us as individuals. Remember our quote from the Second Vatican Council (LG 11) this sacramental encounter with God, Confirmation, binds us more closely with the Church. We can only approach God as a community. We can’t see our faith as just me and God. We must belong to a community of faith, our parish. I see this in my own life in our current time of difficulty. We can’t come together, yet we are still a part of the Church and a parish, and God is still in charge.