This is the time of year when Bishops celebrate Confirmation. It is certainly a wonderful moment for the recipients of the sacrament, as they receive the same Holy Spirit bestowed upon the Church at Pentecost, which we celebrated yesterday. At the same time I like to encourage people who have been confirmed to reflect upon their ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit. Witnessing the many who are now receiving the sacrament is a reminder that the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon us. This is a permanent gift (the Bishop says to the confirmand "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit"). Therefore growth in our relationship with the Holy Spirit is an ongoing gift and responsibility.
How does one assess the state of this relationship? The teaching of Saint Paul is a necessary discernment guide. In Romans 8 he teaches that, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been made the children of God in Christ, and that those who live as children of God follow the promptings and lead of the Spirit. The contrary is to live in the flesh, following our own self-will.
The fifth chapter of Galatians includes an important listing of the telltale signs of living in the flesh: "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." (vv. 19-21) If a serious and prayerful review of our lives leads us to admit in truth that any of these characterize us, then we have allowed ourselves to drift away from surrender to the Holy Spirit and are more reliant upon our selves.
In that same chapter Paul goes on to list the sure indications of a life lived in accordance with the Holy Spirit's promptings: "By contrast the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (vv. 22-23) By the presence of these we can know that we are growing in fidelity to the Spirit. By their absence we can be certain that we need to call on the Holy Spirit for the help He is sure to give.
That help will involve the transformation of our lives. Yesterday at Mass we heard about the change that was wrought in the apostles when they received the Holy Spirit. Formerly fearful and lacking in understanding, now they proclaimed with boldness and clarity the truth of Jesus Christ. They did so with a formerly unpossessed ability to speak many languages. In other words, they were changed for the purpose of serving the will of God. So, too, with us. God's will is that we be holy and that we be convinced and convincing witnesses before the world of the truth of His love revealed in Christ and poured out in the gift of the Holy Spirit. When reflection upon St Paul's list of the works of the flesh and fruits of the Holy Spirit reveals that we are not living in accordance with the divine purpose, it is time to call upon the Holy Spirit to bring about in our lives the required change.
Veni Creator Spiritus! Create us anew!