Accepting the mission we receive in the Holy Spirit

Bishop Barry C. Knestout confirms a young man into the Catholic Church at Blessed Sacrament, Harrisonburg, on Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo/Office of Communications)

Reflection on the Mass readings for May 5 (6th Sunday of Easter)

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

For the last few months, Bishop Barry C. Knestout has been visiting parishes throughout the diocese to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation, and he will continue to do so for a few more weeks.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us through all the sacraments, but in confirmation, that gift is given to us so that we might have the grace to fully witness to our faith in the Church.

Bishop Knestout’s presence at these celebrations shows that there is a unity between the spiritual and the hierarchical aspects of the Church.

In the first reading from Acts, Peter is present to the action of the Holy Spirit in Cornelius and his family. The Spirit is clearly at work. Peter, in celebrating the sacraments with them, then grafts them into the people of God and the body of the Church, without any other preconceived conditions. The Spirit is given to Cornelius not only for his own sake, but for the sake of the Church that is forever changed by his family’s reception of sacraments.

We are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not simply for our own sake, but for the sake of our specific mission in the Church given to us by God. Even though we have preparation requirements for each of the sacraments we receive, we are reminded in John’s Gospel, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15:16).

Sacraments are not something that we have the right to, like a diploma after a course of studies. Rather, the preparation for the sacraments simply makes us ready to more adequately receive what God wants to give us.

Although we have the right to choose to receive the sacraments, ultimately, it is God who has chosen us for sacraments in the Church. In choosing us, the Holy Spirit has also given us a task that the graces that we received in the sacraments bear fruit for ourselves, for the Church, and for the world. We are never just passive receptors of sacramental grace. We are his army of faith called to actively witness to others what God has done in us.

Once those sacraments are received, we are responsible before God that we bear such fruit. It should not be like a gift that we receive on a birthday – for which we give thanks to the giver, wear the gift once or twice, and then place it in a neglected drawer from which we seldom bring it out again.

We have received gifts from God in baptism, confirmation, matrimony and holy orders that forever mark us, but in them we have also received a mission from God. We can ignore the mission. We can carry it out only half-heartedly, but we can never give the mission back to God.

It is ours from the moment we receive the Holy Spirit in the sacraments, through the eternity for which we have been created.

We will each have to give an account to God of how we have used these gifts of the Spirit and what fruits they have born for us, for the Church, and for the world.


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