Fourth Sunday of Easter
Confirmation. This last week was a big week for our parish, especially for our children. On Wednesday Bishop Loverde was here to give the Sacrament of Confirmation to 64 of our teenagers, mostly eighth graders. What an important night for these young men and women, receiving the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, giving them the grace they need to face the adult challenges they are facing more and more every day.
I wonder if we really appreciate this sacrament. Consider that this sacrament brings about the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was given to the apostles and the early Church on the first Pentecost.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language…” [Acts 2: 1-7].
Of course, there was no mighty wind in the church on Wednesday, and no tongues of fire, and no one speaking in languages they did not know. Those unique and dramatic outward signs of the first Pentecost showed the newness of the great gift Christ had given then. Now that gift is no longer new, having been continuously poured out on the Baptized for 2000 years. Even so, the gift of the Holy Spirit is renewed in each Confirmation, and has the same dramatic and new internal effect on the confirmandi, as they receive the same grace that emboldened Peter and the other disciples to go into the world proclaiming the Gospel to an often hostile world.
Consider the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1303-5). Fundamentally Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. Specifically this means it:
— roots us more deeply in the divine filiation (sonship);
— unites us more firmly to Christ;
— increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us (specifically the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, right judgment (counsel) and courage (fortitude), knowledge, reverence, and piety);
— renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
— gives us a special strength to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ.
This is the great gift given to our eighth graders this week, and the gift that most of the adults of our parish have possessed for years. But what do we do with this gift, or gifts? Do we use them to proclaim the Gospel as the apostles did, even in the face of persecution? Do we even recognize that they abide in us?
Let’s pray for our newly confirmed today that they may be open to and cooperate with the graces they received in Confirmation. But let us also pray for ourselves that we may do the same.
First Holy Communion. This week was also a big week for 64 of our second graders as well, as yesterday (Saturday) they received Our Lord in First Holy Communion. What a great thing for these children, to receive our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; to have the Lord come to them in the flesh, and join them to Himself in this miracle. And what a beautiful thing to see these little ones receive with such innocence and faith. If only we adults could receive with the simple faith so many of these little ones have, and recognize the miracle of the love we receive in this sacrament, our intimate holy Communion with Jesus. The Lord tells us “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Does this not refer, in a particular way, to the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself, who is the kingdom? The children believe simply because they follow a very simple logic we present to them: God is all-powerful and can do anything but lie; Jesus is God; Jesus says “This is my Body”; therefore, the Eucharist is truly the Body of Christ. And so they believe. So simple. Do we believe in the same way? If not, why not?
Let us pray for our little ones today, that they may always believe as they do today, and receive this sacrament with the same devotion. But let us also pray for ourselves—that we may become like our little children.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine. This last week saw the passing from this life of two people who were very dear to many of us. First, last Saturday Fr. Richard Martin, pastor of our neighboring parish of Nativity, died of complications from diabetes. Many of our parishioners were members of Nativity under Fr. Martin before joining our parish—particularly before our church was built. So many of you knew him and loved him, as he cared for your spiritual needs. I am truly sorry for your loss, and you are in my prayers in special way this week.
Then on Tuesday we also lost a beloved member of our own parish, as Janet Twyman finally lost her long battle with cancer. She was truly a dear friend to so many of us, myself included, and she will be sorely missed. But more than a friend, she was an inspiration. In all my years as a priest I have seldom seen a person so much in love with Jesus and His Church, and so devoted to loving her neighbor. In short, it seems to me we’ve seen the passing of a saint—I can’t help but think that she is, this day, with her beloved Jesus in Paradise. So that even as my heart is heavy for our loss, my heart also rejoices in the thought of Janet living in the joy and glory of heaven today—and praying for all of us. Even so, Janet would be the first to scold us for presuming she was so holy, and not in need of our prayers to help her on her way to heaven. And so, in faith, hope and love, we pray for her soul. And we also pray for her good and dedicated husband, Calvin, and their daughter, Christina, that the Lord may comfort them in their mourning. Janet’s funeral will be at Saint Raymond’s on Monday, May 12th at 11:30am.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles