By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gifts of the Spirit

Like many Bishops I am involved in celebrating a lot of Confirmations these days. When people gather for these celebrations, I will address the candidates for Confirmation, of course, but I also like to invite the family, friends and parishioners present to use the occasion to reflect upon their own Confirmation and their relationship with the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is conferred only once in a person’s lifetime, never to be repeated, because the gift remains. At the moment of sacred anointing, the words spoken by the Bishop are “Be sealed, with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This speaks of permanence. So I ask all gathered to remember that they, too, if they have been confirmed, have received this special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Do we call upon the Spirit in our daily living to assist us to lead a truly Christian life? The Holy Spirit, by uniting us to Jesus, makes us sons and daughters, in Christ, of our Heavenly Father, and we live as God’s children by allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 8:14). But do we, in fact? How do we discern this?

This is a complex question, but one indication is the degree of anxiety in our lives. After the confirmand is anointed with the sacred chrism, the Bishop says “Peace be with you.” This is very significant. When we open our hearts and lives to the Holy Spirit, and allow him to lead us to ever deeper communion of life and love with Christ, and when in the power of the Holy Spirit we follow the commandments out of love for Christ (cf. John 14:15), the result is peace. This peace is the will of Christ for us (cf. John 14:27). Union with Holy Spirit deepens this peace and thus lessens the fear and anxiety in our lives. This means that if our lives are particularly anxiety- or fear-filled, it could be a sign that we are relying more upon ourselves than upon the power of the Holy Spirit, or focusing more on the trials of our lives than on the love and nearness of the Lord, who often told his disciples not to be afraid.

The Church will soon celebrate Pentecost. In these days leading up to this Solemnity, the readings from Scripture at daily and Sunday Mass contain many references to the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. As we listen once again to Jesus speak of the promise and mission of the Holy Spirit, let us not fail to call upon that same Spirit, whom we have received in Baptism and Confirmation, to awaken within us the gifts that we need for the Christian life.