“What do you stand for?” That was the question that Bishop Robert Barron put to the Confirmandees who had gathered to “be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It’s a good question for anyone to ask themselves.
What do I stand for?
In Confirmation, the Bishop invokes the Holy Spirit, praying that He come down upon those who have prepared themselves for the Sacrament. Bishop Barron reminded them that the word “confirmation” comes from the Latin confirmare meaning, “to make firm”. The Church prays that the Holy Spirit come upon the Confirmandees in a special way, bringing especially his gift of Fortitude.
The young men and women had the faith already; they were given it at their Baptism, and hopefully lived it as they were brought up. Like the Apostles at Pentecost, however, they wish to receive further gifts, which will confirm the faith in their lives, place its mark upon them, and strengthen them to confess that faith throughout the world. What is that faith?
Another translation of confirmare is “to reassure”. This is why Bishop Barron focused on the renewal of Baptismal promises. Confirmation is the fulfillment of the graces we received at Baptism. (For further reading, see this post from The Lonely Pilgrim.) At Confirmation, he said, we stand on our own feet and say with our own voices what our parents and godparents said for us as they held us up to God.
“So,” Bishop Barron said, “what do you stand for?”
Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?
This is a negative promise. It’s not asking what you believe. It’s asking what you won’t believe.
So what won’t you believe? What are the “empty promises” of Satan? The Devil does everything he can to replace God in our life. What are the promises he makes? “Money will make you happy.” “Pleasure will make you happy.” “Power will make you happy.”
To reject Satan and his promises is to believe that those things will not make us happy. Something else will.
Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
The question “Do you believe in God?” can feel purely intellectual. Atheism and agnosticism have put in question what has been certain for thousands of years, the very beginning and core of our faith. So before we can confirm our belief in God, of course we need the intellectual affirmation that He exists.
But it’s so important to remember that, when we confirm our belief in God, we are not only assenting to His existence. We are also saying that we are not the center of our own lives. As Bishop Barron put it, this life cannot be the Me Show directed by Me, produced by Me, and starring Me. Not only does God exist, but He is the creator of the heavens, the earth, and all that fills them. He created me, and I will return to Him, because I am His, and not my own.
This is what “I do” means for this second Baptismal Promise.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
Many people believe in Christ as an historical figure. But we again go further. Jesus Christ is Lord.
Bishop Barron pointed to the large crucifix hanging over the altar. “That is at the center of everything, isn’t it?” Some of its horror is lost on us; it is so familiar. But, he said, if we brought a man from ancient times to the present, and he was told that this is the center of our religion, he would think we’re nuts. Not only is it violent, but at his time it was the greatest sign of infamy, the lowest a person could descend, the worst, most humiliating punishment a man could be put to. “And that’s your Lord?” he would ask.
Think about that. How radical! To celebrate the ignominy of the one we confirm to be the greatest man to walk the earth. And yet we say, “I do.” We know His birth, life, death, and resurrection; He has told us the meaning of it. That is why we confirm our faith in Christ, not only that He was, not only that these things happened to Him, but that they happened out of love for us, that we might live with Him forever.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who came upon the apostles at Pentecost and today is given to you sacramentally in confirmation?
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is the Living Love between the Father and the Son. Their love is so powerful, so true and good, that it is another Person. He, in turn, is the Giver of Life. At Pentecost, He came down upon the apostles and brought the Church to life. That same Spirit comes to us at Confirmation and gives us a new life, a new Spirit. This is the fulfillment of our Baptisms: we are confirmed in our new selves; we can no longer be of the world.
This promise, the Bishop said, returns us to the first. Where we rejected Satan, all his works, and his empty promises, we affirmed that money, pleasure, and power cannot make us happy. This new life, the very Spirit of God, comes to us. He brings a life that is not of the world, but of the eternal God.
That is our fulfillment. That is the only answer to our infinite desire. That is our happiness. That is what we confirm when we say, “I do.”
Do you believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
When we say, “I do” here, we are stating that the Catholic Church is not a club, Bishop Barron said. “I’m a fan of Abraham Lincoln. I think I’ll join the Lincoln Society.” That club is a group of people who come together, joined by their common admiration for Abraham Lincoln. The thing about a club is you can leave it whenever you don’t like it.
At our Baptism, however, we become members of the Body of Christ. This isn’t a metaphorical body, the way any group of people might be called “a body”. This is a true body, with one Head and one Spirit. Your finger can’t say, “I don’t like the way we’re going. I’m hopping off this train.” It wouldn’t be a finger anymore. It would be dead. In the same way, once we are joined to Christ’s Body, if we try to leave, we die; we cut ourselves off from the Head and Spirit.
When we say, “I do,” we confirm this knowledge, this truth. We confirm our membership in the Body of Christ.
This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So this is what we stand for. This is what we are “proud to profess” “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the life we confirm every time we say the Creed at Mass or before the Rosary. This is the life we are asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in. May He continue to confirm us in this new happiness and the promise of eternal life.