Sunday, June 8, 2014

Confirmation: Pentecost Sunday (replaces 8th Sunday of Easter)

At one o’clock this afternoon a number of our students will be confirmed at the Cathedral.  As part of their preparation, the students met with Fr. Rich for a final check-in.  Fr. Rich asked if I would meet with a few students and I began by asking each of them, “Why do you want to be confirmed?”  The usual answer was something like this: “I want to be confirmed to grow closer to God.  I want to be an adult in the faith.”  I would then ask a follow up question: “If confirmation makes you an adult in the faith, why do many dioceses in our own country confirm in eighth grade, or even second grade?” 
The fact is, our placement of confirmation in high school is actually wrong theologically.  In church history the order of the sacraments of initiation was baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.  This is the same order we see at the Easter Vigil for catechumens and is still used in other Catholic rites and in Orthodox communities.  Some even baptize, confirm and give Holy Communion to infants.
Confirmation is not becoming an adult in the Church!  This mentality implies that it is a rite of passage or something we earn.  Like all the other sacraments, confirmation is not something we earn but a gift freely given.  It is a confirmation of the graces God gave us at Baptism and in particular a strengthening of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.
In both the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John, the disciples were locked in a room out of fear.  Yet when they received the Holy Spirit they broke open the doors and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.
Often enough we can remain locked in ourselves out of fear.  We don’t want to ruffle feathers or bring up our faith out of fear of being persecuted.  I have noticed many Catholics have two fears in particular to overcome: the fear of speaking about God and the fear of going to Confession—both of which are addressed in the Scriptures today.
Please, God, may we all experience God’s love and mercy in our lives.  And when we experience the joy of the Gospel, we can’t lock this away!  We are called to share with our parents, classmates, teammates and others the Good News of Jesus.  This doesn’t take a theology degree or require having all the answers—it simply takes courage to speak about Jesus.
And we have nothing to fear in going to Confession.  Jesus tells his disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.  God has given us a concrete way to know our sins are forgiven through His sacrament of mercy.  As I’ve said before, a three to five minute talk with a priest (even if it is embarrassing or awkward) will lead to complete forgiveness and a clean slate.  I pray you experience this regularly.
When it comes to speaking the Good News or coming to Confession, trust in the Holy Spirit God has given you.  Indeed, most of us here have been baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist.  Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and gift of courage!
Please pray for our confirmands on their big day.  If you are able, know you are most welcome to celebrate the joy of this glorious sacrament for our parish and local church.

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