Dear 2016 Confirmation Candidates,
I am writing this letter to you as you are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this weekend. I want to congratulate you on taking this major step in your life of faith. Your parents, your families, our parish community and I are all very proud of you. Several years ago your parents carried you into church to have you baptized. Over the last thirteen or fourteen years, you have experienced this faith firsthand. Now you are old enough to understand the gravity of your baptismal promises. By stepping forward to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you are confirming the decision of your parents to baptize you as a baby. The Church in turn is confirming you with a holy anointing that will enable you to become a living witness to the Risen Christ.
Through your confirmation you are not joining a political movement or becoming a member of some organization. You are committing yourself to a person and that person is Jesus Christ. Our primary task as Christians is not merely to live good lives or to express our intellectual assent to a set of truths. Our top priority is to forge a personal relationship with the Living Christ. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we should seek to know, love and follow Christ.
I was confirmed when I was rather young. In those days as part of the confirmation rite, the bishop would give the confirmation candidate a gentle slap on the cheek. That slap was meant to be both a sign of affection and a reminder to the candidate to be strong. Even though the gentle slap is no longer part of the confirmation rite, the Spirit gives you the gift of fortitude or courage so that you can be a witness to Christ.
For the first four centuries of the Church’s history Christians bore witness by laying down their lives, by shedding their blood. They are called martyrs. May I remind you that the word “martyr” actually means witness? I don’t believe that most of you will be called upon to lay down your life or shed your blood for the Lord. Instead you are called upon to be witnesses in the way you live your lives.
When I was a student of theology, one of my professors challenged us to write the fifth gospel. All the students were puzzled because the New Testament contains only four gospels. Our professor went on to tell us that most people will not read the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The only gospel they will read is the gospel of our lives. In other words, people must see Jesus in our words and actions.
Next year you will be in high school. So far you have lived sheltered lives. High school is a significant period in the lives of most young people. Whether you go to a public high school or a Catholic one, your faith will be challenged in many ways. Your peers will pressure you to do things that go counter to what you believe. Some students may even ridicule you because you believe in Jesus or adhere to certain moral principles. It is in those moments that you must remain strong and bear witness to Christ. It is then you must stand up for Jesus. I don’t mean that you must argue with those people. You silently bear witness by your actions, your compassion, your gentleness and your love.
A few weeks ago TV channels reported that several buses filled with young people were stuck in a huge snowstorm and that those young men and women went around helping people. The channels even showed images of Catholics celebrating Mass in the snow. However, none of the media ever said that those people were returning from the March for Life in Washington, DC. In fact several hundreds of thousands of Catholics and others marched in the capital in order to call the attention of the nation to life issues. Yet the media ignored the story. This incident is another manifestation of how our larger society is becoming more and more hostile to the Christian faith. Our nation is turning away from her Judeo-Christian roots. Therefore as you get older you will find it a challenge to be a Catholic.
That is why it is all the more imperative that you bear witness to Christ. Filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you must stand up for Jesus. In order to be able to be an effective witness you must be nourished by the Bread of Life. I hope you will want to go to Sunday Mass of your own free will. Your best friend, Jesus, is waiting to give Himself to you.
The call of Pope Francis to all of us to become missionary disciples is addressed in a particular way to you on the day of your confirmation. Here are the words of our Holy Father (The Joy of the Gospel, #120, 121):
May the Spirit of Christ give you the courage to stand up for Jesus!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...