11 Oct 2015
“Every year [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.” (Luke 2:41-42) In the name …
When you graduate from a college or when you have kids who are in college, you receive their glossy quarterly magazines. They tell you about what’s happening on campus and who’s doing what, and of course they ask you for donations. The magazine we received in the mail this past week had a picture of last Spring’s graduating class. On one of the mortarboards, the graduation cap, a young lady had printed, “And so the adventure begins.” College graduation is the culmination of one journey, but it’s only the beginning of many, many more to come. Life’s adventure is only beginning.
This afternoon these six young people are going to be receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of our diocesan bishop. You’re invited to come back to church to be a part of this sacred rite along with them. Confirmation is like a graduation of sorts. They have studied 420 catechism questions with me over a two-year period all in preparation for this one special day. In this sense, Confirmation is like graduation. These young people will be changed spiritually in a few hours. They will receive the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit, and with those gifts they are then called upon to become “soldiers of Christ.” This means that they will be expected to stand-up and support their faith. That college grad with “And so the adventure begins” on her cap realized that she was now prepared to take the next step in her life. Graduation is completion only in one sense, but it’s also preparation for what follows. Any parent or any grad with college loan payments will be greatly disappointed if after dropping thousands and thousands of dollars on an education that nothing productive comes out of it. In the same way, Confirmation is a graduation in the sense that Bp. Paul says you are worthy and well prepared to receive one of the church’s most precious gifts, one of her sacraments. And Confirmation is also a graduation in the sense that your religious adventure really begins in earnest now.
For the longest time as I would drive south on Route 91 I would see a billboard just this side of the first Northampton exit. It showed a picture of John Wayne. Now I know he died in 1979 and none of you were born before 1999, but I hope you at least know that he was a movie actor who usually played tough, stoic characters. On the billboard he’s wearing his iconic cowboy’s hat with that tough guy look on his face, and the message in big, bold letters is a quote from one of his movies: “Don’t much like quitters, son.” The billboards are put up all over the country by Values.com and their purpose is to try and inspire people to think about and live good values. And this value is perseverance. What a waste it would be to graduate college and then just quit. What a waste it would be to accept Confirmation and all that it empowers and promises, and just quit.
In today’s Gospel we hear the only story of an adolescent Jesus. He’s not much younger than you are. This selection is read every Feast of the Christian Family because it shows a young Jesus learning about the faith through the practices of His family. Every year, we’re told by Luke, the Holy Family traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. The family is where Jesus first experienced faith and worship, and this is why we read this passage today and every Christian Family Sunday. But what if Jesus decided to quit at this point? The religious scholars see His wisdom and are amazed. In this sense, Jesus has graduated. He knows more than enough to pass, but we wouldn’t be here now if Jesus quit. Jesus would have been forgotten long ago if He but once amazed some religious teachers in the Temple. But Jesus only moved on and beyond from this point. He was shaped by His history, but He would be defined by His future. That’s the potential and promise of graduation and also of Confirmation. Just like in Jesus’ life, it’s only getting exciting now.
This may sound strange coming from a priest and a pastor, but there’s not a lot of inspiring quotes about the Christian family in the New Testament. One day, as a matter of fact, Jesus’ family came to see Him. When He was told they were outside, He instead pointed to the people listening to His words and He called them His mother and brothers. (Mark 3:31-35) It’s only very late in the New Testament that we start to get advice about the traditional family and it is very traditional. It had much more to do with fitting-in in Roman society than it did with Jesus’ example. That’s why we hear today the comparison made between parents and children with that between owner and slave. This is as bad as last Sunday’s companion for Adam story in the Garden of Eden being a cow. Neither example really works out too well. But back in the day, children were seen not heard. They were expected to work not to be taken to this practice or that rehearsal. They only got to be themselves when they grew up. That’s when it would have become exciting even for Jesus. That’s when He discovers who He is and what He’s supposed to do. If He quit at 12, what a waste that would have been.
You’re now entering into the time when you start to ask questions, when you start to think in new ways, when you experience all kinds of new situations and emotions, when you enter into a new relationship with your church and even with your God. You’re shaped by your history, but you’re going to be defined by your future. Confirmation is not a play. It’s for real. The church is sharing the Holy Spirit with you. That should lead to all sorts of new expectations, from you and of you. You have so much in your young minds to offer to the church that only you can give, and the church will suffer if you quit. So let us pray that Confirmation be a graduation, not in the sense that you’re all done, but in the sense that your adventure is just beginning. There is so much in God and Christ and church and you to experience, and most of that is in front of you. Congratulations on getting this far, and may you enjoy and be inspired by all that is yet to come, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo