Rev. Glenn J. Comandini, S.T.D.
Back in my day, in preparation for Confirmation, we were given a booklet containing 150 questions and answers, which we had to memorize. Well, when Bishop George W. Ahr arrived in his stretch limousine, accompanied by a battalion of Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, we all tried to get a peek at the prelate. When we finally succeeded in doing this, we discovered that he was a very short man with a stern face. And, as we expected, prior to conferring the sacrament of Confirmation, he barraged us with a battery of questions from that dreaded booklet. Well, as I feared, I was called upon to answer a question: “What did God give Adam?” blurted the bishop, pointing at me. I was so nervous that I went blank. Finally, I guessed: “God gave Adam, Eve!” And everyone in attendance laughed. Suffice it to say, this was not the answer the bishop expected to hear. I was supposed to answer “God gave Adam PARADISE”! I was so humiliated! I wanted to crawl under my pew. Bishop Ahr, however, was gracious, laughed out loud and, yes, he even confirmed me.
Confirmation is the sacrament by which the Holy Spirit empowers us to bear witness to the presence of Jesus in our world. “What does this mean?” We live in a world where Jesus is not visible as he once was. We live in a world where many people are suffering from disease, loneliness, discrimination, war, estrangements, the loss of a loved one and natural disasters. How do we show people, in this world, that Jesus is real, that he is still with us and loves us?
One way is by service. By doing things for others, we put others before ourselves, just as Jesus did.
Another way to show people that Jesus is real, is with us and cares about us is through our presence. Just being with those who are struggling, speaks volumes about our faith in Jesus. Whether we are spending time with a widowed aunt, somebody we just met in a nursing home, a new student in our class, a lonely kid on our block or somebody who is sick in the hospital, relates that we care. That is where the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which you probably memorized, come into play: clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, providing lodging for the homeless, instructing those whose faith is weak, speaking out against something that is wrong, confronting our friends when they are bullying someone. Remember those Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Fruits of the Holy Spirit? These are not just doctrines to be learned but realities to be lived. By embracing these, living out our faith through charity becomes the means by which we resemble Jesus as people of the Kingdom. Living out our faith through charity is the best way to observe the Law of the Gospel, which is the Law of Love.
Finally, let us not forget the importance of prayer, both personal and liturgical. One of the things that distinguished Christianity from other religions, in the days of the Apostles and the early Church was its emphasis on community. The Catholic Church is not about a private affair ‘for me,’ it is a community endeavor ‘for us.” In our personal prayers, we should talk to Jesus as we would talk to a friend, honestly, sincerely, from the heart. We should never hesitate to ask him for whatever we need. We should try to thank him for our blessings and lift up to him those who need his grace, whether these are close friends or family members or complete strangers who need God’s help. We should also remember our deceased loved ones who cannot pray for themselves. And we should come to Mass regularly where we, as a community of faith, make known what we believe by giving God glory and praise. At the same time, we are strengthened by the Word of God and nurtured by the Eucharist. The late, great, Bishop George Ahr echoed a perennial teaching about youth which holds true to this day: “you are the hope and the future of the Church.” As such, you belong here and we need you.
Confirmation is the crowning of your religious formation but it is not the end of your journey in faith. Why? “Being Church,” which began when you were baptized and which you freely chose to continue when you asked the bishop to be confirmed, is a life-long process. But you’re not alone. We, your brothers and sisters in the faith, will continue to support you, through our presence, prayers, service and love. Finally, remember that God is giving you what Adam never enjoyed, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which empowers you to see Jesus in others and be Jesus for others. What a gift! What a privilege! What a Church! What a God! Congratulations and may God bless you all.