My dear Confirmation candidates, you come here tonight after a long period of growing in faith and preparing for this beautiful sacrament. You have completed many hours of service, you have learned a good deal about our faith and our church, and you have prayed together on retreat and in many other ways. Tonight you see the grace of all of that: you receive the sacrament for which you have worked so hard to prepare. I congratulate you for coming here tonight to choose yet again to be a follower of Christ in the Catholic Church. I have more to say to you, but first I would like to speak briefly to your parents and godparents.
And so parents, I appreciate on behalf of the Church all that you have done to raise your children in the faith. A parent’s job is a difficult one, perhaps more so now than ever. You know all too well that there are so many ways a young person can be distracted from their faith and even from their family. But you have persevered by bringing them to baptism, teaching them to pray, giving them the grace of continued religious instruction, and bringing them here tonight for Confirmation. A parent’s vocation is to bring children into the world and witness and teach them the faith. This you have begun, but the job is never complete until that great day when we all meet in heaven. And so I encourage you to continue this great work by seeing that your family comes to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, and that you all become life-long learners of our faith. Then on that great day when we do all come together to eternal life, you can hear your Lord say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!”
Sponsors, you have undertaken a very important role in the life of the young person you are sponsoring. It is not something simply ceremonial. It is your job to continue to witness to the faith and encourage your candidate to grow in that faith. This is not a merely ceremonial role: you are expected to live lives of integrity, showing that you believe in Christ by your example, and to encourage and correct the person you are sponsoring so that they remain on the road they have chosen tonight. You share with their parents in the role of bringing them to heaven.
And now, candidates, I return to you. You have come here for many reasons tonight. Some of you have freely chosen to come to the sacrament of Confirmation to be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of your faith and you have chosen to share in it. Others perhaps are doing this because a parent or grandparent or some other adult has urged you to do so. And that’s okay; they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t insist that you do what is best for you. Whatever the reason is that you’re here, the important thing is that you have come here. The Holy Spirit which you will receive in a sacramental way tonight will continue to work in your hearts and in your lives to guide you through the years ahead which could be quite difficult.
As a young person in today’s world, you have a lot on your plate. High school demands much from you: academics, sports, extra-curricular activities, all of these take time and energy and attention. Then there are the pressures of growing up in this environment. Your parents and teachers expect you to perform at your best, to get good grades and eventually to go to a good college and get a good job. That is a hard thing to accomplish for anyone and for some more than others. You also have the pressures to socialize with other young people. You have to have friends and be popular, and sometimes the cost of that is pretty high. You are tempted to try alcohol and drugs and going too far in relationships, and all kinds of things that you know are wrong and that will lead you into sin. The cost of choosing not to take part in that is extremely high.
Everyone thinks that being in high school is one of the greatest times in your lives, and it sure can be. But it can also be very difficult with the many pressures you have. But the reason we celebrate Confirmation as a community is that we are saying to you that the pressures you experience are not pressures you need to experience alone. Tonight I want you to notice three very important gifts.
The first is the gift of the adults in your life who only want the best for you. Your parents, grandparents, sponsors and other adults in your family are there for you. You have teachers, the staff here at church, and Father Raj and me. You need to know that you can and should go to any of us when times are tough, when you have to make hard decisions and when you don’t know how to do the right thing. The adults in your life have had to make the right decisions every day, and sometimes we do it well and sometimes we learn from our mistakes. But we want you to know that you can always come to us for help.
The second gift is your classmates here tonight. Look around: these are all people who have come here tonight because they believe that there is something special, something important, about living in Christ and living their Catholic faith. When peer pressure seems to make life so hard, know that there are peers here at Notre Dame who stand with you to make the right decisions.
And the final gift is what we celebrate sacramentally tonight: the Gift of the Holy Spirit. These days the Holy Spirit doesn’t often help us to speak in tongues, and it might be that nothing miraculous will happen as a result of this sacrament tonight. Unless maybe you look a little harder. For me, I see miracles that I attribute to the Holy Spirit all the time. I am able to make hard decisions here at the parish with wisdom that I know is not my own understanding but rather something that comes from God. I am able to console people going through hard times with words that I could never have dreamed up on my own. I pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance every morning. And every morning I thank the Spirit for the graces I have been given. I think that can happen for you too.
Tonight’s Gospel teaches that Christ is “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” That doesn’t mean that life will be easy. For Jesus, that way was the Way of the Cross. The truth that he preached cost him his life. And the life that he gained meant that he had to die first. In some ways that’s true for all of us. Life is hard, and living life the right way comes at a cost. But the reward we have is a relationship with our God that is deeply personal and unparalleled by any other relationship. The reward is the Gift of the Holy Spirit that helps us to make the hard decisions and to live the right way, and to do the hard things that we think we can never do.
So I encourage you to continue to be active members of the Church. Tonight is not the end of your faith journey. Continue to come here every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation for Mass so that you can receive the grace of the Eucharist to strengthen you, and the grace of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Continue to be of service to those in need so that those who you serve, who have very hard lives, can help you to become strong people of faith. Continue to learn about your faith so that on that great day when you are called to heaven, you’ll know where you are and will recognize your Lord.
And now, if you are ready to receive this Holy Sacrament, I ask you to renew your baptismal promises.