14 Oct 2007
“Come Thou Creator Spirit blest …” (Hymn to the Holy Spirit from the Confirmation Service this afternoon) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
This past week I attended Curriculum Night at Deerfield Elementary School, what they used to call Open House when I was that age. In one of my daughter Amanda’s classrooms there was a little poster of an Albert Einstein quotation. This brilliant man said: “If we knew what it was we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, now would it?” If a genius like Einstein can admit to confusion, then so can we. You’re young teenagers, the oldest of you are barely old enough to start learning how to drive. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, and yet you’re probably preoccupied with what you’ve got to get done tomorrow. Unless you’re very lucky, you probably don’t have a clue what you want to do and what you want to be when you’re an old person of 30. Or if you do, there’s a real good chance it just may turn out to be something completely different. Confusion. It’s not a bad thing necessarily. Sometimes it’s one of the stops we have to pass through to get to our destination. It’s part of life.
The story is told that way down in the deepest south a revival church-meeting is taking place on the banks of a muddy creek. It’s the cool of a Saturday evening. Along stumbles a man who has had a few too many adult beverages for his own good this particular Saturday. He hears all the commotion by the creek and wanders down to see what’s going on. He’s captivated by the preacher’s voice, and ventures closer. The preacher is in the middle of the creek baptizing born-again Christians. Now our friend is at the very edge of the water when the preacher catches his attention and calls him forward. Our friend stumbles a bit as he makes his way out into the creek. The preacher asks, “Have you found Jesus?” and dunks him beneath the water for a few seconds. The man comes up sputtering water. The preacher asks again, “Have you found Jesus?” The inebriated man barely has “No” out of his mouth when the preacher plunges him beneath the water a second time, but this time for a bit longer. “Have you found Jesus?” he says as the man emerges. Again, our friend stammers “No,” and again the preacher pushes his head underwater, and this time he’s down there for a good 30 seconds. He pulls him up and asks, “And now, have you found Jesus?” To which our confused friend replies, “Can’t you at least tell me where he fell in?”
Confusion, it even happens in religion. Take today for example. This afternoon the bishop will lead us in singing: “Come Thou Creator Spirit blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest.” We invite the fullness of God through the descent of the Holy Spirit to come and abide with each member of our Confirmation class. They will vow to be faithful. They will solemnly promise God that religion is important to them and that they will never walk away. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a young person who has not even thought too much about life after high school, never mind life-everlasting. It wasn’t all that long ago when I shared with all of these young people their First Holy Communion. They were children, now they’re caught in those confusing years when they’re no longer kids but they’re not yet adults. And now today we’re going to say to them, You have to be prepared to even suffer if need be for your Christian faith. Any one of you who is not a bit confused by all that Confirmation entails just isn’t thinking enough about what Confirmation entails.
But just like with Einstein and his research, confusion is leading somewhere. We’re not supposed to stay confused. But that’s what can happen. We can give up and walk away, then our only memory of religion is the confusion, not what the confusion was supposed to be leading to. Instead of letting Confirmation turn us into advocates of the faith, we turn into graduates of the faith. We leave and only come back for reunions around Christmas and Easter. What’s supposed to happen, though, is that Confirmation is to help us make our faith in God personal, to make our faith stronger. We’ve worked on knowing about God for the past two years in catechism, and I know with all the fun we had it seems a lot shorter, but I promise you it was two years. Today, however, you’re supposed to feel God. Today it’s not about knowing the answer to question 100 or 420. It’s about do you care? Is Jesus important to you? Is this place special? Is there something uniquely good here?
When the bishop lays his hands upon you, as bishops have been doing all the way back to the time of the apostles of Jesus, you are going to receive the Holy Spirit. Way back to our first catechism lesson, that means God. We’re asking a lot of you as young people today. Maybe more than you’re really ready to process. But we’re not expecting you do any of this on your own. We’re expecting you to do this with the help of God. His gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel, His fruits of reverence, strength and piety. We’re expecting you to give God a chance. When He comes to you today at your Confirmation, give Him the chance to start clearing up some of the confusion. He’s already been introduced to you, now let Him sit down and talk to you. You’ve learned about Him, now try to live with Him.
That preacher in the creek couldn’t force our intoxicated friend to find Jesus no matter how long he held his head under water. And nobody can force you to become faith-filled adults. We can pray for you, we can help you, we can share our gifts of the sacraments with you, but unless you find a way to make God personal, to make Jesus more than that statue behind me, to make the Holy Spirit real this afternoon, then it’s going to be hard to make your way out of the spiritual confusion. But that’s why sacraments are called mysteries. They offer us more than we ever expected. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit guide you and all of us so that we truly can say “We have found Jesus.” Amen. (+)