Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the sacrament of confirmation…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Continuing our reflection on the Sacrament of Confirmation, we consider the effects that the gift of the Holy Spirit has matured in the Confirmed, leading them to become in their turn a gift for others. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. We recall that, when the Bishop gives us the anointing with oil, he says: “Receive the Holy Spirit that is given to you as gift.” That gift of the Holy Spirit enters in us and makes us fructify, because we can give it to others. Always receive to give: never receive and keep things inside, as if the soul were a warehouse. No: always receive to give. God’s graces are received to give them to others. This is a Christian’s life. Hence, it’s proper of the Holy Spirit to de-center us from our “I” to open us to the “we” of the community: receive to give. We are not at the center; we are instruments of that gift for others.
Completing in the baptized the resemblance to Christ, Confirmation unites them more strongly as living members of the Mystical Body of the Church (Cf. Rite of Confirmation, n. 25).
The Church’s mission in the world proceeds through the contribution of all those that are part of it. Someone might think that there are bosses in the Church: the Pope, the Bishops, the priests and then there are the others. No, all of us are the Church! And we all have the responsibility to sanctify one another, to take care of others. All of us are the Church. Each one has his work in the Church, but we are all her. In fact, we must think of the Church as a living organism, made up of persons we know and with whom we walk, and not as an abstract and distant reality. We are the Church that walks; we, who today are in this Square are the Church. We: this is the Church. Confirmation binds the universal Church, spread throughout the earth, involving actively, however, the Confirmed in the life of the particular Church to which they belong, with the Bishop at the head, who is a Successor of the Apostles. And because of this, the Bishop is the original minister of Confirmation (Cf. Lumen Gentium , 26), because he inserts the confirmed person in the Church. The fact that this Sacrament is ordinarily conferred, in the Latin Church, by the Bishop demonstrates that “its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ” [Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1313].
And this ecclesial incorporation is well signified by the sign of peace that concludes the rite of Confirmation. In fact, the Bishop says to every confirmed <person>: “Peace be with you.” Recalling Christ’s greeting to the disciples on the evening of Easter, full of the Holy Spirit (Cf. John 20:19-23) – we heard –, these words shed light on a gesture that “demonstrates ecclesial communion with the Bishop and with all the faithful” (Cf. CCC, 1301). In Confirmation, we receive the Holy Spirit and peace, that peace that we must give to others. But let us think: each one think of his own parish community, for instance. There is the ceremony of Confirmation, and then we give each other peace: the Bishop gives it to the Confirmed person and then, in the Mass, we exchange peace among ourselves. This signifies harmony, it signifies charity between us <and> it signifies peace. But then what happens? We go out and start talking about others, “skinning” others. We start to gossip, and gossip is war. This will not do! If we have received the sign of peace with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we must be men and women of peace and not destroy, with our tongue, the peace made by the Spirit. Poor Holy Spirit – the work He has with us, with this habit of gossiping! Think well: gossip isn’t a work of the Holy Spirit; it’s not a work of the unity of the Church. Gossip destroys what God does. But please, let’s stop gossiping!
Confirmation is received only once, however, the spiritual dynamism aroused by the holy unction is persevering in time. We will never end fulfilling the mandate to spread the good fragrance of a holy life, inspired by the fascinating simplicity of the Gospel. No one receives Confirmation just for himself, but to cooperate in the spiritual growth of others. Only thus, by opening ourselves and going out of ourselves to encounter brothers can we truly grow and not just delude ourselves of doing so. All that we receive as gift from God must in fact be given – the gift is to be given — so that it’s fruitful, and not buried instead out of egoistical fears, as the parable of the talents teaches (Cf. Matthew 25:14-30). Also the seed, when we have the seed in hand, it’s not to put it there, in a cabinet and leave it there: it’s to sow it. We must give the gift of the Holy Spirit to the community.
I exhort the Confirmed not to “cage” the Holy Spirit, not to resist the Wind that blows to push them to walk in freedom, and not suffocate the burning Fire of charity that leads to consuming one’s life for God and for brothers. May the Holy Spirit grant all of us the apostolic courage to communicate the Gospel, with work and words, to all those we meet on our way. With works and words, but with good words, those that build. Not the words of gossip, which destroy. Please, when you leave the church think that the peace received is to be given to others, not to be destroyed with gossip. Don’t forget this.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT, www.zenit.org