Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The feast of Pentecost — this year on May 23 — comes 50 days after Easter. On this day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, just as Jesus had promised when he said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth … he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14: 16-17, 26).
When Jesus left the apostles, they were frightened and felt terribly inadequate. Then, at Pentecost, they heard a strong wind that filled the house in which they were staying. Tongues of fire came to rest on each of their heads. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and completely changed. No longer timid about preaching the Good News, they were now strong and confident.
I am also reminded of this action of the Holy Spirit each time I preside at confirmations in our diocese. As the young women and men come forward, I anoint their foreheads with chrism oil and tell them: “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Like the apostles from long ago, they receive this gift, which strengthens them in their witness to Christ and in their bond with the Church and its members.
Every person who is confirmed receives extraordinary gifts from the Holy Spirit:
- Wisdom to help make good decisions that respect human dignity and the common good, even in the anxious times in which we live;
- Understanding to better discern God’s message and his will for us;
- Counsel so we are thoughtful in offering assistance and taking guidance from others;
- Fortitude so that we have the courage to always speak the truth with love;
- Knowledge so our minds and hearts remain open to learning about life and our faith;
- Piety so we always strive toward holiness; and
- Fear of the Lord to always remember that we, ourselves, are not God, whose love and power are beyond all human measure.
The presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit impart an important lesson to us. When we look at the world, we see so many problems that need to be addressed: disrespect for human life and dignity, poverty, the sin of racism, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and polarization within the Church and society, to name just a few. We often look at our own talents and see how inadequate they are in the face of these problems. We ask ourselves, “How can I, with my limited reach, change any of this? How can I reverse these situations?”
The answer is found in what we celebrate at Pentecost and at every confirmation. It is the Good News that Jesus has sent, upon his Church and us, the promised Holy Spirit.
We are not alone. The Holy Spirit is taking our small contribution and transforming it into something that we never dreamed possible. We, with the Holy Spirit, can do something about all these problems and challenges. We become much more, and do much more, because of the Spirit’s presence and the gifts it imparts. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.”
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler