Confirmation is Initiation, Not Graduation

“The sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.” (CCC 1285)

Pieter de Grebber, “Baptism of Christ”, 1625
Pieter de Grebber, “Baptism of Christ”, 1625 (photo: Public Domain)

There’s a temptation to consider one’s self finished when one receives the sacrament of Confirmation. However, anyone serious in the faith knows that Confirmation is just the beginning. It seems reasonable that God took the time to explain what we should do next after receiving God’s grace. It’s not enough to have or to hoard God’s grace—we have to act and use those talents we’ve been given to help create more opportunities for others to receive God’s grace.

That process of discernment takes time, prayers, trial and error—and yes, fasting. What did Jesus do after his Baptism? He ventured into the desert for 40 days. My son after Confirmation will endure something longer and hopefully less taxing—four years of high school. Part of why I began this project was to give him glimpses into all the different ways one can begin to experience both the mysteries of the Rosary themselves, and the scripture which reveals them to us. I wanted him to begin to unpack the Scripture and discover there’s always more.

To help get at that “moreness,” I enlisted his siblings so as to give him even a greater and broader perspective than just his mom’s. Around the dinner table, we played a game, as I asked each of my children who have been confirmed, which mystery of the Rosary they considered their favorite.

My 15-year-old daughter told me, “The Baptism at the River Jordan.” My father traveled to the Holy Lands before he died, and my mom told me they went to the Jordan. I paired that mystery with my father forevermore after that story. 

My father served as her godfather at her baptism, and hearing her talk about the mystery felt like heaven opened broader to allow a little hug from my dad as she spoke. Going back to read Matthew, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

In meditating on the mystery, St. John the Baptist gives us the instruction on how we must receive grace and prepare ourselves to encounter Jesus. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” and do not presume. He further humbles himself before the Lord; “Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John tried to dissuade him, with the words, ‘It is I who need baptism from you, and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands.’ Then John gave in to him.”

There is so much within this little passage. Like all Scripture, it’s bigger on the inside. John is counseled to be obedient by Jesus. Jesus, in submitting to Baptism, likewise models obedience for all of us. Finally, in case we missed the point, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and the voice of God the Father instructs all of us to also be obedient. “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” 

Baptism removes all sin—even original sin. What was the original sin? Disobedience. Baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. For my son, as he prepares for Confirmation, I hope he remembers that it’s the “sacrament of Christian maturity” to help him care for and take his part in the body of Christ. I hope he learns to hear and listen to the small still voice of God, to see Christ in others, and to be the obedient hands and feet of Christ in his journey of growing up. I hope he learns what his patron saint knew: We know ourselves only to the extent that we know Christ.