It’s that time of the year again where you’ve either started attending or will soon attend someone’s reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation; maybe even your own! This Sunday, the Church lays down for us some of the key Readings that illuminate the ancient workings of this Sacrament as told by the Bible.
In our First Reading, we are told about how St Philip preaches the Gospel to a Samaritan town and how they accept and receive the Gospel told by St Philip “either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves.” Now, we now from Acts 6:5 that this Philip was not the Apostle Philip and therefore could not minister the Sacrament of Confirmation whereby they would receive the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles were the first Bishops in the Church and, as has alway been the case except for special circumstances, this Sacrament is always conferred by a Bishop. Therefore, “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet He had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
There is much confusion surrounding the Sacrament of Confirmation. Most people, and I mean about ninety-five percent of the Catholic West, think that Confirmation is when a person decides for their own to be Catholic. They couldn’t choose for themselves at Baptism and so now, at Confirmation, they “confirm” the choice of their parents. This is incorrect; nowhere will you find that in any of the Church’s documents. It is possible, of course, that one who receives this Sacrament might interiorly decide this, but Confirmation is not necessary to do this. If you haven't done this yet, do it this Sunday, or do it now with the Sacrament of Confession or Mass because the reception of any Sacrament is your own “confirming” of this. The reception of any Sacrament is you making an oath to the New Covenant of Jesus.
One of the reasons for this confusion is the name of the Sacrament. People might ask themselves “Well, what are we confirming?” and the obvious answer is the one I’ve mentioned above. But the problem is that we are not the ones who do the confirming; God confirms us! The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,