April 22, 2016
by Msgr. Mark Lane, General Vicar
Before I do anything tonight, I have one request of the young people about to be confirmed: Breathe. You’re not breathing. Unless you breathe, you’re going to fall out. And while in the charismatic renewal movement and within the gifts of the Spirit there is such a thing as being “slain in the Spirit,” tonight is not the night for being slain in the Spirit, I can assure you.
There’s a saying in St. Luke’s gospel on the lips of the prophet Zechariah, and he says: “And you, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.” You young people are our prophets tonight. You are our prophets, not in the sense of the stereotype we have of prophets that can predict the future, but rather prophets who are part of their own time and who speak to their own time. That’s what prophets did.
Not only are you prophets for us tonight, I want to begin by thanking you for being our teachers. And you might wonder how you are our teachers. Let me tell you: You remind the rest of us who are sitting in this church that we have received the same sacrament you are about to receive tonight. Many of us have, and many of us have forgotten that sacrament. It’s become somewhat of a trinket that we put on the sidelines. We don’t activate the sacrament in our own lives.
And you remind us that, in the Roman Catholic Church, sacraments are supposed to be celebrated every day of our lives. Not just on a Friday evening in Bedford. But the sacrament that we received, or that I received, at the old age of seven (when I knew SO much – a pretentious little kid), I should have been celebrating that sacrament all my life. And if I’m not, I want to thank you for reminding me that I should. Because the gifts that you’re going to receive tonight are ones we already have.
So the question arises for us who are much older than you are: What are we doing with our gifts? We ask you to place your gifts at the service of Christ in church, and you challenge us to do the same thing. Why? Because we shouldn’t be asking you to do something we’re not doing. Children learn by watching. So hopefully tonight, some of us, myself included, will leave here a bit renewed because of you, and thank you very much for that.
When you leave here tonight, you’re going to be changed people. You’re going to be changed in that you have made, and decided to make, a very public statement that Jesus is important in your life, or you wouldn’t be here. At some core inside you, that is present, and we need your public witness, both in the Church and in the world.
I was fortunate enough to be at the Diocesan Youth Convention a few months back and, if you want to see youth truly alive as you are, that convention mirrors that: Young people who wanted to do nothing more than to praise Christ and to be missionaries – not to foreign lands, but to their own communities; to re-enter communities and to revive them with their youth and to revive them with their great love.
Simple statement: God loves teenagers. Why? Very simple answer: He was a teenager. We forget that: He’s a teenager. He is a boy of twelve who does what adolescent boys and girls like to do at the age of twelve, lose their parents. He loses his parents. He goes off on his own. And He’s found, as you know, with the doctors of the church teaching them rather than their teaching Him. But He comes forward with that wonderful statement that He has to be about His Father’s business.
And that’s what you’re all about. You’re about being those heralds of the Kingdom of God. You need to be about the Father’s business, and don’t let anyone distract you from that mission. It was instilled with you in Baptism; it is there each time you receive the Eucharist, and now, in a special way.
I was a therapist for twenty years. I know, because of the young people I saw, that it is very difficult to be a teenager in the United States today. You have a life that is fast-paced; far more fast-paced than I would like to see. You have a life that is image-based. You have a media out there pressuring you. And maybe you get the same pressure at times from parents and peers, pressuring you to be out there and almost go to the extreme.
I want you not to listen to the media. The media wants to tell you how to look, what your right size is, what color your hair is, how you need to dress, who you need to hang around with. The media is after one thing from you, as it is from all of us: making a profit. They do not care about you. Everyone gets in the train, there’s nothing wrong with the train. But just realize that words for your well-being are not coming from the media that you follow.
But it’s coming from God, who sees you already as perfect. And that you do not have to add one iota to who you are as a young man or a young woman, because in the sight of God who created you, you’re perfect. Are you going to mess up? Welcome to the real world. Welcome to the need for Jesus as our Savior. You will do that, but in God’s eyes you are perfect. You are perfect.
The other thing that strikes me about the media is the whole instant technology that you’re confronted with. Everything is instantaneous, isn’t it? Everything is instant. I have now an iPod. Wow…. I graduated. I got my first computer in ’83, so what can I tell you? We were still using wooden blocks back then. But you now have instant technology, you have Twitter, you have whatever. You’re not even using Facebook anymore. That’s passé, as the French say, that’s gone.
The technology is put into your hands for the good. It was created, as all creation was, for the good. What concerns me at times is what all of us, and not just you young people, but what all of us do with that technology. You know and I know there is a shadow side to this. There is a dark side to technology. I can use it to abuse someone on the Internet. I can use it to say derogatory things about someone. I can use expletives that will absolutely destroy someone. It is there for our communication; it is not there for the denigration of anyone else. But you know and I know that happens. It’s used for sexting, whereby human sexuality is demeaned.
You live in that world of sexuality. Note, I said, secondarily, “You live in a world of sexuality.” I didn’t say ‘human sexuality’. That’s how the Gospel would want you to live. That’s how the Church would want you to live. In no way, in no shape, and in no action are you to be anybody’s sexual object. Tonight you proclaim with the Church that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit. And no one should use your body for their own sexual gratification.
Human sexuality is the whole person in Christ. It is not just parts of the human body. And I need to advise you, because you have seen so much about the issue of abuse, both within the church and outside the church, should anyone ever abuse you in any way – physically, mentally, psychologically – tell someone. Tell someone. The Lord of Creation lords His love over us. We are not to lord our power over anyone, especially not over young people. They should be nurtured, and they should remain young, youthful, and innocent. And we who are older should be helping them to remain in that state.
I read an article the other day in which Pope Francis called you young people “revolutionaries.” I would change that a little bit – don’t tell him, but I’m going to change it – I want you to be “miracle workers.” And you might say that Jesus did the miracles – Right! But you have to ask yourself: Why did Jesus do miracles? Jesus did the miracles because He wanted to show us that this Kingdom that we’re always talking about is not some far-off place. It’s something here and now. And again, you might say, “Well, what is the Kingdom of God?” And I’m going to be bold enough to say it’s found in the seventh chapter of St. Luke’s gospel. This is how Jesus defines the Kingdom: The blind see. The lame walk. The deaf hear. The poor have the Good News preached to them.
Not much of a Kingdom, is it? But it’s His Kingdom. And what is he looking for from you behind those statements? To be miracle workers. The theme of the Kingdom of God is wholeness and we are to call people to wholeness as well as being whole ourselves. If you know folks who are blind, who are walking around unable to see either the beauty of God’s creation or the presence of Christ in His Spirit, you now are encouraged to open their eyes, because you have the gift to do so.
In your families and in mine, when I was growing up there was an awful lot of brokenness, for a lot of reasons. Divorce, alcohol, drugs, you name it, there is just brokenness in families. Rather than condemn those who are broken, wouldn’t it be great if we could pray them into wholeness? Wouldn’t it be great if we could encourage them to be whole? And to move away from whatever it is that is making them lame?
Don’t forget the poor ever in your life. The poor mirror back to us our own poverty. Perhaps we don’t have that material poverty that we see in so many of the poor and the disenfranchised that surround us, but we’re poor. St. Augustine puts it this way: “Our hearts are not going to find any rest until they rest in You.” So we will always have that poverty and yearning. But the poor are there to remind us of that. So be generous to them.
The last thing I’m going to say to you is, I want to encourage you to question your faith; to question it, because that is how you grow. You have the Spirit of knowledge tonight. That Spirit will be with you as you question. That Spirit will be with you in your doubts. That Spirit will be with you in your confusion. And that Spirit, through all the questioning and the doubt, will give you the greatest gift that the Spirit can give, and that’s Peace.
Now, you might not want to do that. You might be uncomfortable even with my saying that. I want to give you an example. There’s a German philosopher by the name of Rilke. Rilke taught philosophy in Germany, and one of his students was constantly asking him questions, to the point where the young man thought, “I’m going to drive the professor out of his mind.” So, humbly the boy goes to Rilke and apologizes. This is Rilke’s response, and I think it’s so profound. He says to the young person, “Live in the question. The answers will come at a later day.” And so I say to you, “Live in the question. With the Spirit of God in those questions, the answers will come at a later day.”
Tonight you young people do the Church honor. You do the Diocese honor. And while you may get the Seven Gifts tonight, know that you are already a gift to Christ in His Church.