June 7, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection—Trinity Sunday
Saturday morning, I stood in for Bishop Noonan. In normal times once a year, Bishop Noonan comes to Nativity to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation. During this coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Noonan has delegated to me the responsibility to confirm.
The first of three separate Confirmation liturgies for our forty-five candidates with families and guests was Saturday, June 6 during the 8:30 a.m. morning Mass. I told the ten candidates present how I went Friday morning on a walk.
It was not a walk with my dog Maxie. It was a walk with about a thousand people. Churches in Orlando and many clergy gathered for a Walk of Mourning and Rehabilitation starting at Camping World Stadium. We walked on Church Street in silence and prayer. They read the names of George Floyd and others killed by racism. The organizers read psalms of lament such as Psalm 79:9.
Help us, God our savior,
on account of the glory of your name.
Deliver us, pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
I told the candidates for Confirmation that there were no signs, no chants, no angry words, and no symbols of defiance. It was not a march or protest. Everyone wore facemasks and kept social distance. Sheriff deputies walked respectfully with us.
The walk ended at Division Street, the dividing line for decades between black Orlando and white Orlando. Speakers added more prayers. They spoke against violence and racism. They spoke for the reconciliation that comes from God.
I told the candidates these things because in the Sacrament of Confirmation they are confirmed as witnesses to the world. The same Spirit poured out on the Apostles at that first Pentecost is poured upon them in the Sacrament of Confirmation to bring to perfection God’s work in the world. We are witnesses of these things.
Having received the Holy Spirit, we cannot remain armchair Christians anymore than we can be armchair brothers and sisters to one another. Silence is compliance.
The witnesses of the Church through the ages, officially known as martyrs, gave witness in word and deed to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, we have received the gifts of the Spirit to give witness with them before the world.
I was disappointed at the walk in only one thing—the absence of Catholics. Understandably, the event was not well-publicized beyond the downtown churches. Bishop Noonan was there. Father Leo Hodges from St. Andrews Catholic Church was there. My dad wearing his Knights of Columbus cap was there.
We have state elections in August and the general election in November. These are opportunities to go beyond thoughts and prayers. They are opportunities to live out the Sacrament of Confirmation and give witness before the world to our God of love, mercy, and justice. We participate in politics in order to love our neighbor as Christ commanded.
Turn off the media and its sound bytes for today. Take one hour to read and reflect on our bishops’ most recent pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts.” Their pastoral letter challenges people of good conscience never to turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. Our bishops unequivocally state that racism, like abortion, is a life issue.
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. It highlights that all things in heaven and earth are meant to share in the blessed life of the God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are meant for communion with God!
Our one God in three Persons has won the victory over sin including racism that separates us from him. We are witnesses of these things.
In Thursday’s faith reflection, I gave a 3-question True/False quiz about the Sacrament of Confirmation. Let me know if you aced the quiz.
“The Sacrament of Confirmation confers the Holy Spirit.”
FALSE. In Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit. In Confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts that we become more like Christ and more perfect members of his Church. When the bishop dips his thumb in the chrism and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the one to be confirmed, he says, “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Soldiers were marked with their leader’s seal. Slaves were marked with their master’s. The anointing is the sign of consecration. It marks our total belonging to Christ and to his service.
“During Confirmation, the Bishop slaps you.”
FALSE. To be fair, this statement in the past was True. The bishop’s slap came from the idea that one became a soldier of Christ, see above. In the current rite, the bishop simply says, “Peace be with you,” as he takes their hand in friendship. It is true that the confirmed Christian, as witnesses of Christ, are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.
“The Sacrament of Confirmation is the sacrament of maturity and commitment to Christianity.”
FALSE. Confirmation, with Baptism and the Eucharist, constitute the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, not Christian commitment. Confirmation is not a Christian bar-mitzvah or coming-of-age ritual or graduation from faith formation. The candidate does not confirm their faith; they are confirmed in faith. Instead, Confirmation completes baptismal grace. Busted Halo, an awesome website run by the Paulist Fathers for young adults, put it this way. “Think of it as a personal Pentecost, when we receive the tools we need for our spiritual journey — the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
. In comparison, Holy Orders (ordination) and Holy Matrimony (marriage) are “Sacraments at the Service of Communion” which assume maturity and commitment.
For further reading, check out the
Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 1285 to 1321. It beautifully explains the great Sacrament of Confirmation.
Returning to Church
Nativity Longwood .
on Sunday, June 7 at 11:00AM