The joy of the Holy Spirit will grow in us as we share faith with each other
At this time of year it is easy to feel good. The trees are in blossom, the birds are singing, the evenings are bright. Everything in nature is telling us of the glory of God and the wonder of creation. It is fitting that we also celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Christ at this time of new life.
All over the universal Church people are being received into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is a time of great joy for the newly baptised and for their families and communities. Confirmation, as a sacrament of initiation, fits in well with this season of Easter.
St Ireneus sees the wonder of God’s glory in the fully alive human being. Author John Powell SJ examines what this means in his thought-provoking book, Fully Human, Fully Alive.
He believes that to become fully human, fully alive, we must allow the Spirit of God to come alive in us. We are an Easter people, and the spirit of joy and hope should be evident on our faces, in the way we greet people, in the way we offer support to one another.
As parents we are challenged to integrate this joy and hope and make it visible by the way we respond to our children and their needs. The source of our joy is in Christ: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). St Paul reminds us also that joy comes from having “a confident trust” (faith) in God (Phil 1:25).
When adults have been initiated into the Christian community, there is a final process in their preparation which is referred to as Mystagogy.
This phase takes place in the first weeks after Easter right up to Pentecost, offering space and time for the newly baptised to reflect on their sacramental experience.
It is a time of integrating the teachings about Christ with their experience of Christ, helping them to grow in a deeper understanding of their faith. In a slightly similar way, and not with the same intensity, the parish programme You Shall be my Witnesses tries to do the same.
There are four sessions before Confirmation exploring the themes of Belonging, Believing, How can I be a Christian? and How can I be a Witness? The fifth session after Confirmation entitled Beginning Again offers the young people an opportunity to share their experience of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation with their group.
The parent leaders encourage them to continue to be a witness to their faith making the fruits of the Holy Spirit explicit in their lives. It is important that parents also keep this experience alive for their children by referring to the Confirmation celebration and asking their son or daughter how they felt and what they thought.
Parents could also talk to their child about the experience of preparing for the sacrament and help them to savour all that has happened, retelling its significance so that it does not become a once off event, easily forgotten.
Although Mystagogy refers to the final period of the catechumenal process, taking place in the 50 days after the Easter Triduum, it is for all of us and for all our days.
As Christians we are called to a relationship of communion with Christ which causes us to grow and change and eventually be transformed. Parents and communities are living, learning, growing and called to share faith also.
The joy of the Holy Spirit will grow in us as we share faith with each other and share the experiences of finding God at work in the ordinary experiences of our daily lives. As a Christian community we live by the Spirit of God who keeps calling us to conversion and transformation. Parishioners are reminded of their individual and collective journey and their own unique calling every year when Confirmation is celebrated.
The recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, exudes passion about the joy of the Gospel.
Pope Francis tells us that our joy is constantly born anew with Christ because he is the source of our joy. We are reminded that the joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus and the Pope is emphatic that the Church is called to transmit the joy of the Lord to her children—a joy that gives true peace. In fact you only have to look at Pope Francis to see the joy he radiates to everyone he meets. His joy is infectious. People are drawn to him and respond to him because we all need to experience joyful hope in our lives and in our world. This is what the gospel offers us. This is what Christ died for. This time of new life is a constant reminder of joy and hope which is the essence of our Christian lives.