Just three weeks ago more than 250 of our young men and women received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of Bishop Francis Kane. Today I would like to return to the same event for another inspiration. One of the requirements that the candidates have to fulfill during their preparation is some form of service to the community. You are aware of the service trips that our youth ministry has been organizing over the last couple of years. I want to congratulate our youth minister, Caroline Hopkinson, for organizing these successful service opportunities for our young people. They serve a dual purpose. They help our teens to express their love for their neighbor by giving up their summer vacation and engaging in acts of service. Second, these trips remind the entire parish community of our Christian obligation to give of ourselves to others because what we do for our brothers and sisters, we do for Christ Himself.
Our young people do service in various ways. Some choose to take an active part in the Eucharistic assembly as ministers while others serve in soup kitchens or in nursing homes. In recent months you would have noticed that our teen choir has been helping us pray better. I have personally heard from our teens as to how their acts of service have transformed their lives. We are grateful to our young people for all they bring to our parish.
Every now and then someone would ask me why we require confirmation candidates to do some form of service. Some others would say that we should make that requirement even more stringent. I would like to remind all of us that in the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) young people are expected to give two years of service evangelizing others here in the US or abroad. I saw several of these young missionaries while I was in Rome.
Why do we ask our young people to serve? For me the answer is quite obvious. In the Sacrament of Confirmation a baptized Catholic moves from being a child to becoming an adult. What is the difference between a child and an adult? The child expects the world to revolve around him or her whereas the adult is filled with concern for others. It is the prerogative of the child to expect everyone to take care of him or her. In childhood the emphasis is on getting while in adulthood the focus is on giving. In order to embrace their faith as adults, these candidates are expected to forget themselves and to serve others. Finally the time has come for them to imitate the Master who said: “I who am your Lord and Master have washed your feet. Now you must wash one another’s feet. For the Son of Man has come not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
During this holy Season of Lent, I invite all of us to consider seriously our call to service. We have to ask ourselves whether we are engaged in some form of service to others. Our willingness to serve others will help us practice all the three pillars of the season: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Ours is a community that constantly reminds us of our responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. There are many opportunities to get involved. I am sure you have many gifts that can enrich the lives of our parish community. The Servants of St Francis have brought a fresh impetus to our desire for service.
We cannot emphasize enough our Christian summons to service. It is a fundamental duty. Marian Wright Edelman put it eloquently: “Service is the rent each of us pays for living – the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time or after you have reached your personal goals.” Even successful individuals like Albert Einstein understood this truth. It is said that toward the end of his life, Einstein removed the portraits of two great scientists – Newton and Maxwell – from his wall and replaced them with portraits of Gandhi and Scheweitzer. When someone questioned him about it, he explained that it was time to replace the image of success with the image of service.
We pray that our young people will grow stronger in their commitment to their faith and in their commitment to service. We pray that we as a community will continue to serve just like our Master.
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...