This Sunday, I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with St. James Parish in Douglas. The homily is below.
As we begin Advent, St. Paul describes well how we are supposed to act. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all . . . so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus.” (1 Thes. 3:12-13) The grace of Baptism and Confirmation empowers you to “abound in love for one another.” The power of the Holy Spirit “strengthens your hearts to be blameless in holiness before God.”
As you look at how you treat the people in your family, are you abounding in love for one another? For youth, is this how people see you treating your brothers and sisters? Do you abound in respect and love for your parents? For parents, do you overflow with patience, gentleness and forgiveness with your children? In your relationship with your husband or wife, do you overflow with Christ’s selfless mercy?
Paul’s challenging words are helpful to hear as we begin Advent. He reminds us of our goal as disciples – to “abound in love for one another,” and “to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father .” Passages like this make us realize how far we have to go.
To be a good disciple is not to be perfect, but to work at it every day. You can hear that desire in a letter one young person wrote. She said: “By being confirmed in the Spirit, I desire to witness and serve others. You honor yourself, your parish and God by serving others. It is one of the many things we have failed in our everyday life, and I feel the need to change that.” She realizes that she needs to work harder at serving others.
To be a good disciple is to never give up….. to keep working the journey of faith. The Holy Spirit keeps nudging us along each day, urging us to do more. In a film about St. Teresa of Calcutta, a reporter is interviewing her. He has observed her serving the poorest of the poor in the streets, but she is barely making a dent. To him her work seems meaningless. So he asked her, “What do you want to accomplish in your life?” She responded with urgency, “More, more, more. Always more.”
A good disciple is someone who feels that he or she has never done enough. She is restless. She wants to “increase and abound in love.” But this does not mean doing more so others see how good I am. And it’s not increasing my good works out of a sense of guilt because this is how I should act. Rather, a disciple seeking to “increase and abound in love” is inspired by God. This feeling arises in a person who is close to God. In particular, it flows from the experience that God is so good to me. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor. 5:14)
This is the feeling that we often get when we are at Mass because we are refreshed in the mercy flowing from the cross. When a person is confirmed, one of the first effects is to experience the abundance of God’s goodness, even though you do not deserve it. And God’s blessings are meant to be used. They are intended for others. The abundance of grace inspires us to “increase and abound in love.”
We see how that abundance shines out in the saints. They abound in love and heroic strength. One student chose St. José Sánchez del Río who died as a martyr at 14 years old. She wrote, “He wanted to be part of the Mexican revolutionary way so he joined the Cristeros. He knew that he had to fight for his faith. . . . His godfather ordered his assassination. José was offered many opportunities to be set free but . . . he was stubborn to the end. The federal forces cut the skin off the bottom of José’s feet and made him walk to the cemetery. Just before his death, the captain taunted José by asking him what message that he wanted to tell his parents, and José responded. “That we will see each other in heaven. ¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!”
St. José Sánchez del Río was a martyr because he shined with the abundance of God’s power. He wanted to do something more than just be a regular person. That is what God wants from you. He wants you to abound in his love.
The goal of Confirmation is to set your heart on fire with God’s love. St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.” God created you so that he could pour the fire of the Holy Spirit into your heart. You are confirmed to bring that fire to the world.