PENTECOST C 2019 STM, TORONTO
At the Jewish feast of Pentecost devout Jews went to Jerusalem to affirm that they were God’s chosen people by the covenant given to Moses at Mount Sinai. The giving of the Holy Spirit to us, the new people of God, crowns the mighty acts of salvation history. This action is renewed for each person in the Sacrament of Confirmation as we are sealed with the Holy Spirit with the olive oil blessed by the bishop, scented with the freshness of balsam. The chrism conveys and confirms God’s anointing love.
In the First Reading today, the mysteries prefigured in the OT are fulfilled by the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (Acts 1:14). The Spirit seals the new Law and new Covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers just as the prophets had promised (2 Cor. 3:2–8; Romans 8:2).
The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which God made all things. In the beginning, the Spirit came as a “mighty wind” sweeping over the face of the earth (Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as “a strong, driving wind” to renew the face of the earth.
Those offering themselves for the Sacrament of Confirmation are already baptized i.e. incorporated into the Body of Christ – the Church. Now this promise is sealed and each person responds to God in service to the Father, in the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (Genesis 2:7), in today’s Gospel we see the New Adam (Christ) become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (1 Cor. 15:45, 47).
This past week millions watched the 75th anniversary observances of the landing of young Canadian soldiers at Juno Beach in Normandy. These young men had pledged their allegiance to the cause of human freedom by entering the armed services; but it was by plunging into the waters off Juno beach that they were transformed by the Spirit into a dedicated force sworn to fight the Nazi occupation and for the freedom of the nations of Europe.
It was in the heat of the battle that they were sealed and confirmed in their service by the Spirit of freedom, truth and goodness. The inscription on the Victoria Cross says simply “For Valour.” That highest military honour was won by some that day for their valour.
So it is today that each one who has been baptized as Christ’s own, each one is called into spiritual battle (as The Order of Holy Baptism puts it) “valiantly to fight under [the banner of Christ] against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto life’s end. It is after this prayer that the Priest makes the sign of the Cross upon the forehead of each baptized person where he or she will be sealed with chrism at Confirmation and anointed in Unction, the Sacrament of the sick administered as part of the last rites of the Church
We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a “new creation” in Baptism (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (1 Cor. 10:4) confirmed by the sealing of the Holy Spirit. We are the first fruits of a new humanity — fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, a people born of the Spirit.