This weekend, I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with 84 students in Cheyenne at St. Mary’s Cathedral (Friday), Holy Trinity Parish (Saturday) and St. Joseph’s Parish (Sunday). Below is the homily from Sunday.
The best way to understand Confirmation is to see how the Holy Spirit shines out in others. In the letters you wrote for confirmation, you describe how you see the Holy Spirit in the saints. One of you wrote: “My confirmation name is Maximillian Kolbe. . . . He sacrificed his life for someone he didn’t even know. He did it because he wanted the guy to not lose his family.”
St. Maximillian Kolbe was at the concentration camp at Auschwitz. When the Nazis sentenced ten men to die in a starvation bunker, one of the men cried out saying that he had a wife and children. He begged not to be chosen. Fr. Kolbe heard him cry out and offered himself instead. He said: “I am a Catholic priest; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”
The man whose place Kolbe had taken later said, “I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me—a stranger.”
St. Maximillian sacrificed his life for someone he didn’t even know. He was a great example of what Jesus says in the gospel today. He was totally selfless, totally focused on helping other people. Saints teach us how to be servant-disciples. The grace of Confirmation empowers you to be servants and to sacrifice your life for others.
Yet, that takes time. We need to realize that God works with us, even when we are selfish. You can see that in today’s gospel. James and John are selfish. They are seeking a privileged place with Jesus. They asked him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” (Mark 10:37) Then the other disciples became angry. Maybe they were jealous. So Jesus patiently reminded them what it means to be a true disciple.
He told them, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To be a disciple is to serve others. Saints are servants. But it took time for the disciples to get it. Like us, they were selfish. As I read your letters, I saw that you have the desire to serve, even though you are aware of your weakness. For a disciple, success means to never give up. You cannot fail if you never give up. God will give you the grace to be a good servant, if you just keep asking him for grace.
It is easy to get discouraged because we sin and fail. But one of the best reasons to have hope is to realize that God knows our weakness and helps us in our weakness. In the letter to the Hebrews is says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Heb. 4:15-16)
When you are weak, remember that Jesus knows your weakness and helps you. He will forgive you and help you to start again. Keep reading stories of the saints. They will inspire you to be selfless servants. Above all, take time every day to read a gospel passage because seeing how Jesus served is the best inspiration.