Confirmation and Cana

Homily for the Second Sunday of the Year (C). Is 62:1-5; Ps 95; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-12

Today we have various Confirmation candidates with us who will, I understand, be Confirmed this summer. So I would like to dedicate this homily to them, briefly looking at some of the things that might be helpful to them as they approach Confirmation. As there are four parts of the Cathechism - Faith, Sacraments, Moral and Prayer, I would like to examine briefly one or two issues in each of these four areas.

First, with regard to faith. Now we only have one, reliable account of anything that happened in Jesus' life between his birth and his baptism, by his cousin John, at the age of about thirty. The event happens when Jesus is almost a teenager. He is about twelve years' old and his parents lose him for three days, eventually finding him in the Temple in Jerusalem. So what is Jesus doing in the Temple? St Luke's Gospel describes him, "Sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46). So what kind of questions would the Son of God ask his teachers? St Luke does not tell us; all that the Gospel tells us is that, when he answered questions, "All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers." What at least this gospel does teach us is that Jesus' example of questioning is important. Jesus tells us that, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field” (Mt 13:44). In other words, we have to work to uncover the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, a task which in practice involves questioning and thinking through the implications of what God has revealed to us in our faith. Perhaps the greatest thinker in Christian history, St Thomas Aquinas, spend his whole life asking questions about the faith, and we are still learning from his answers (incidentally, many of his works are now online). So it is good, as a teenager, to begin to ask questions and think through the faith.

Second, with regard to the sacrament of Confession itself. Even after two thousand years we do not fully understand this sacrament. What we do have, however, is a powerful image of this sacrament when the Holy Spirit descends of the disciples, in the company of Mary, at Pentecost. This event is the birth of the Church and marks the beginning of her mission of preaching the gospel to the whole world. We also know that the sacrament is related to what are called the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Courage, Piety and Fear of Lord. People have also debated the meaning of these Gifts, but what it seems that they do is to get rid of what you might call our 'spiritual autism'. If you have ever been in the company of an autistic child, you will know that what is difficult is that the child does not respond your presence in the way that you would expect: the child is not 'moved' by other people and can act as if other people are invisible. These children teach us why the Gifts are important. Without these Gifts, we are all 'autistic' in our relationship to God. With the Gifts, outpoured in a new way in Confirmation, we can begin to live in an "I-You" relationship with God, ultimately becoming friends of God. A saint is essentially a friend of God in glory, someone in heaven who fully loves with God the things that God loves.

Third, with regard to morals, just as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit unite us to God, there is also the danger of becoming seduced by other things that offer us ultimate happiness instead of God: such beings are called 'idols'. Now I must apologise to our teenagers and Confirmation candidates in particular, because the older generations have greatly damaged the society in which you are growing up. A few generations ago, adults encouraged teenagers to behave morally. Adults attempted, as it were, to organise society as a kind of ordered garden in which children could grow up and flourish. Today, however, many adults have broken down the gates and walls of this garden, which is rapidly becoming a jungle, particularly with regard to drugs and sex. All people have a strong attraction to pleasure, which is a good thing in itself, and young people, in particular, begin to have strong sexual desires. The problem is that pleasure and sex, taken out of their proper contexts, can be very destructive and today's adult world will strongly encourage you to indulge these desires in the wrong way. Evil, as they say, likes company. With regard to drugs, the dangers are clear and the most powerful remedy is not to start. Modern chemistry has taken natural chemicals that can be beneficial to us and concentrated them, so that they can enslave the mind. There are many ruined lives today as a result. With regard to sex, the issues are more subtle. Contrary to popular belief, Catholicism is not Puritanism: Catholic countries are not 'repressed'. On the contrary, today's Gospel shows Jesus blessing a marriage by working a miracle. In other words, when a man and woman agree to become one flesh, to sleep together, the proper context for this event is a blessing by means of a sacrament, accompanied by a celebration in which each person makes promises to the other, a covenant to give one's life to the other person. Much of the adult world today, as expressed in magazines, soap operas, the Internet, is working to undermine or destroy this relationship. Sex is now regarded as both important and trivial at the same time, which is contradictory and, as a consequence, other people are treated as means for obtaining pleasure rather than the pleasure completing the relationship.. As a result, there are many broken hearts, broken bodies and broken minds in society today. These are not irrevocable sins, but there is damage, and I would like you to be spared this suffering. Beware of pornography and fornication. Although you will be strongly encouraged to behave the same way as almost everyone else, and even persecuted for behaving differently, if you live chastely, you will, in fact, enjoy better relationships and lasting happiness.

Finally, with regard to prayer, I encourage you to pray every day. Our whole purpose for living here on earth is to learn to love God, and all that follows from loving God. Those who do not know and love in this life will not know and love God in eternity either. When faced with the challenge of becoming holy, Jesus' disciples say, "Who can be saved?" And Jesus responds that it is impossible for any human being, but all things are possible with God. Even in the modern world, which has become a moral jungle, it is possible to become a saint, by the power of grace. In particular, I encourage you to pray for Our Lady's help. Jesus works miracles when asked by his mother, and her prayers will help us attain the Kingdom of Heaven.

Faith, sacraments, morals and prayer: may God bless you in all these areas as you prepare to recieve Confirmation. May you grow in holiness and come one day to everlasting life. Amen.

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