“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17, NAB).
Like all the Sacraments, Confirmation is a moment of encounter with Jesus Christ. By receiving this Sacrament, we are joined more closely to Christ and are more fully conformed to Him.
The particular gift of Confirmation is the Gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not that we are without the Holy Spirit prior to Confirmation. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we become “temples of the Holy Spirit.” But in Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is given with a new fullness, especially to equip the Christian to carry on the work of Christian evangelization in the world.
The model for Confirmation is Pentecost. Jesus chose Twelve Apostles and commissioned them to carry on His work after His death and resurrection. Nonetheless, even after the Apostles had been thoroughly convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead, they remained ill equipped to carry on His work.
The Apostles had two great problems:
- they did not know how to fulfill the mandate to “make disciples of all the nations” and
- even if they had known what to do, they were afraid to do it – in fear for their own lives, they locked themselves in the upper room.
The situation was transformed by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit was heard as a rushing wind and seen as tongues of fire. Once He had come upon the Apostles, they opened the doors, went out into Jerusalem and preached Jesus Christ with words that were miraculously understood by Jews from all over the world in their own languages.
From the beginning of the Church, the Apostles shared the gift of the Holy Spirit with those who had been baptized by the laying on of hands. This is the essence of the Sacrament of Confirmation to this day. And the Sacrament of Confirmation is given to equip Christians to share in the work of Christ and the Church to make disciples of all the nations.
Parishioners who are now adults and who have not been confirmed are invited to receive the necessary instruction for Confirmation by taking part in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Adults who prepare in this way are Confirmed at the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) when other RCIA participants are received into the Catholic Church and also Confirmed.