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Pentecost and the gifts of the Holy Spirit

An adult stood at the front of the room, facing a room of indifferent teenagers. They might as well have been a harmless fish in a tank of piranhas. Slowly, perhaps in an effort not to make sudden movements that would disturb a sleeping giant, they placed a clear glass on a table and filled it with milk.
The teens became intrigued, as the one glass wouldn’t be enough for all of them. The speaker explained that the glass of milk represented each of them while bringing out a container of chocolate syrup. Eyes lit up as a healthy portion of chocolate was poured into the glass of milk.
Those of you who have made a glass of chocolate milk like this before may guess what happened next. The chocolate sunk to the bottom of the glass, present but lifeless. The adult said, “Imagine that the chocolate represents the gifts of the Holy Spirit being poured into you at Baptism.”
Adding another dollop of chocolate for good measure, the speaker began to stir the chocolate into the glass of milk. Before the teens’ very eyes, the once white milk turned a darker shade as the chocolate permeated throughout the glass. The adult said, “Imagine that at Confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are poured out into you and sealed, but that you now have the responsibility to stir those gifts within you, through prayer, through service, through works of mercy, through being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Just as you can’t separate the chocolate from the milk now, so too that there will be an indelible mark, something you can’t undo, when you receive the sacrament of Confirmation. You will be forever changed.”
The image struck home for many of the young people in that room … including me. I will never forget the first time I saw this demonstration in a Confirmation class, and it’s stuck with me for many years. I imagine that the catechist may have “borrowed” this image from someone else, so I am not sure the exact origin of the analogy.
Is it a perfect analogy? No, as no analogies ever are perfect but as a visual representation, it held significant meaning for young minds to comprehend. What good is the chocolate if it just sits at the bottom without being stirred? In a world where chocolate milk is more delicious and appealing than plain milk, shouldn’t the chocolate be stirred and done so to the best of one’s ability?
Pentecost often reminds me of my Confirmation, being set apart in a new way and being forever changed. At Pentecost, the apostles were transformed from frightened followers to bold proclaimers, from hiding to sharing the Gospel with a holy zeal. The Catechism states, “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” (CCC 1302)
Why get confirmed? Why does it seem like we have to go through hoops for another sacrament? What does the Holy Spirit have to do with my life? These are questions that young people and their parents often ask and struggle with as the preparation for confirmation is presented to them.
In short, I believe that the Holy Spirit equips us to handle situations we couldn’t face alone. A family illness, a sudden job loss, an unexpected death – the simple but powerful prayer of “Come, Holy Spirit” doesn’t heal all wounds but calls upon a powerful ally, an Advocate, to be at our side. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we never have to face fear alone. Following Jesus Christ can be challenging, but the Holy Spirit empowers disciples to become apostles.
In the Catechism, we read, “When the Father sends His Word, He always sends His Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.” (CCC 689)
As we celebrate Pentecost, let us call to mind the gifts of the Holy Spirit poured into us at Baptism and Confirmation. May the Holy Spirit, stirred up within us, give us the confidence to proclaim the Gospel with the same holy boldness of the apostles.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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