[Homily for our youth reconciliation service.]
I confessed to the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders from our school on Friday that I used to be afraid of the dark. I asked them and all the adults present how many of them have ever been afraid of the dark, and – no surprise – almost everyone raised their hands. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask all of you to fess up on that and let all your friends know one of your childhood secrets! But I think we can all agree that at some point, most of us have been afraid of the dark.
When we're in the dark, obviously there is danger. We don't know if there's something we can fall over, or if some other kind of danger is lurking in that darkness. In order to find our way in the dark, we need some source of light to pierce through it all. When I was going to bed when I was little, I used to make my parents leave the door open just a little bit, so that the light from the hall would scatter some of the darkness and some of my fear. For centuries, people navigating through the dark of night would use the light of the moon and the location of the stars to pierce the darkness and lead them safely to their destinations.
For us Christians, too, we need a light to direct us, a light to scatter the darkness of a world steeped in sin, evil and despair. Many dangers lurk in that kind of darkness for us, and if we don't have a light, we could come to a very frightening end. If we were to admit that we were afraid of this kind of darkness, we'd be taking a step in the right direction.
And you all know the kind of darkness I mean. Maybe it's the easy availability and lure of drugs or alcohol. Maybe it's the temptation to copy a paper off the internet, or let someone else do our school work for us. Maybe it's the deep desire to go too far in our relationships, or viewing others as mere objects of our passions. Maybe it's the tendency to judge other people by what they wear, where they live, or where they come from. Maybe it's getting caught up in gossip and idle talk, ruining others' reputations. Maybe it's getting wrapped up in ourselves and our own egos and selfishness, and not reaching out to others, or even putting them down. Maybe it's the times we are quick to argue or fight with parents, family or others. All of this darkness can swallow us up and lead us to very dangerous places indeed.
We need a light to pierce through all of that darkness, if we're ever going to find our way out of it. We began to open up the light at the beginning of our service when we lit the Paschal Candle. That light that stands for Christ, and more importantly, Christ's victory over death through the Resurrection, that light will lead us out of the darkness of our sin. In the Confirmation Interviews I did this past week, many of you picked as a portion of the Gospel you'd like to use in your prayer the brief quote "Don't be afraid; just have faith." Jesus said this to Jairus, the man whose daughter had just died, just before Jesus raised her up. And this is what we want all of you to hear tonight.
Don't be afraid; just have faith. It's easy for us to think our sins have made us rotten to the core, unworthy of God's love, but that's not true. It's easy to think Jesus would have no more time for us when we've turned away from him time and time again, but that's now how Jesus works. It's easy for us to feel unlovable when we've messed up our lives in so many ways, but God's love is different than that. God's love is enduring, reaching out to us through the darkness of sin and evil, and giving us the light that will lead us out toward God himself.
Don't be afraid; just have faith. Maybe you haven't been to Confession since your first Confession years ago. Maybe you've forgotten how to do it. If that's true of you, then all of us priests here want to say "welcome back, and do not be afraid." We will help you to make a good Confession; we will help you to open yourself up to receive the light of Christ that will lead you back to God's love.
Don't be afraid; just have faith. Maybe there's something that you've had on your conscience for a long time now, and you've been afraid to confess it. Maybe you haven't told anyone else about it. Maybe it's something you're confused about. Perhaps you're not even sure it's a sin and you just need to understand the situation better. Maybe you're worried that the priest you go to will think less of you when you confess that sin. Forget all that. Come to one of us and confess it. We've heard a lot of stuff in Confession before and what I can say for myself is that when someone confesses something that has obviously been dragging them down for a long time, I have great admiration for their courage and their desire to make things right with the Lord. Again, we are here to bring you back to Jesus, and if you've come here tonight and don't take advantage of that opportunity, we're going to be heartbroken.
In a few weeks, Bishop Imesch will be here to anoint you with Chrism and Confirm you. We hope that you will be able to do that with the blazing light of a clear conscience and a pure heart. That's probably not where you are right now, but it can be where you'll be in a few minutes. Don't be afraid; just have faith. Know that Jesus who could raise Jairus's daughter from the dead is the same Jesus who will raise you up from your sins. Know that the light you kindle tonight can become the blaze that takes you out of the dark places you might be in right now. If we were able to admit it, I think we'd all have to say that we are or have been afraid of the dark at some point in our lives. But there is no reason – no reason – that we should be afraid of the light.