Last weekend, I celebrated Confirmation in Pine Bluffs, Wheatland and Casper. This weekend, I confirmed young people in Pinedale, Kemmerer and Evanston. Please pray for all of the young people receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in these weeks. The homily for the Mass at St. Mary Magdalen, Evanston is below.
The one thing you never see in Jesus is fear. He felt perfectly safe in the hands of the Father. He felt protected by the Father as his Shepherd, so he had no fear. But our hearts are preoccupied by so many worries.
What fears occupy your mind? Are you afraid of what others think of you, or what they say about you? Maybe someone you love has cancer or a life-threatening illness, so you are troubled. Parents are anxious about their children and their future. And many people worry about money, or having a stable job.
How can you and I live fearlessly like Jesus? 1 John 4:18 contains the clearest path to living without fear. It says, “In [God’s] love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear. . . . and whoever is afraid has not come to perfection in love.” Fear is the opposite of God’s love. Jesus lived safe inside of the Father’s love. When we come to perfection in God’s love, then we will be fearless.
Think of how enormous the universe is. Astronomers say that there are about 100 billion stars in one galaxy, and there are more than 100 billion galaxies. That means that there are approximately 100 billion x 100 billion stars out there, give or take a few billion! Astronomers have found stars that are 40 million times brighter than the sun. They discovered quasars that emit the light of a trillion suns.
Almighty God who created such an enormous universe sent his Son to tell us. “No one can take [my sheep] out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of my Father’s hands. The Father and I are one” (Jn. 10:28-30). Jesus shares God’s almighty power, and he holds us in his hands. He was safe in the Father’s hands, and he invites us to live inside those hands.
To be fearless does not mean that everything in the world is just fine. There is a huge battle between good and evil. Jesus hinted at this battle a few verses earlier when he said, “The hired hand . . . sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them” (Jn. 10:12).
There are plenty of things to fear, if you are not in the hands of the Father. The wolf or Satan is prowling to attack the flock. Sin has wounded us, so we easily give in to despair or temptation. All kinds of illnesses wear us down physically and psychologically. Mass shootings or acts of terrorism preoccupy our minds. There are plenty of things to fear, if you are not in the hands of the Father.
However, we are in the hands of the Father. That’s what it means to be baptized. We are immersed into the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation the grace of the Holy Spirit is strengthened. We have the strength of Jesus. We have his power to stand strong.
In addition, we have the protection of saints and angels. A few students chose St. Michael the Archangel as a confirmation saint. One student wrote: “I chose St. Michael because he symbolizes ‘strength’ to me. He is the patron saint of soldiers, police and doctors who give protection. One of St. Michael’s responsibilities is to combat Satan whom I know is alive and well. What better name than to be confirmed in other than St. Michael who is already a champion for me. He is the most powerful angel of the Lord. I chose St. Michael as a constant reminder of ‘strength,’ to help combat Satan in my life as I journey toward my eternal life with Jesus and God the Father.”
No matter what happens God holds us in his hands; his angels accompany us, and his saints show us that we can be fearless in the worst situations. St. Maximillian Kolbe sacrificed his life at a Nazi concentration camp to save a man who begged not to be killed because he had family. The guards told Kolbe not to look at them because his eyes were so strong, so fearless.
Often we don’t see that fearless strength in baptized and confirmed Christians. Sometimes they act just like others who are not baptized. Why? The grace given in these sacraments can lie dormant. It is there, but not active. It is like a seed that lies in the desert without rain. What do we need to do to activate the grace of Confirmation? What do we need to do so that we will be fearless like St. Maximillian Kolbe?
First, realize that we are given God’s power through the Holy Spirit. We share in Jesus’ own power. We have his strength. He said, “I give [my disciples] eternal life, and they shall never perish” (Jn. 10:28). Most people think of ‘eternal life’ as something we experience after death. They think of it as ‘everlasting life.’ But it is so much more. Eternal life is ours right now. It is the life of the eternal one – the life of the Risen Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit.
First, realize that you have Eternal Life right now. Second, work your relationship with God. Live inside of the Father’s hands. One essential way is through daily prayer. This is what one student wrote about her daily prayer. “On a daily basis I spend about ten minutes in prayer. I usually turn to God when I feel that I have said or done something wrong and need forgiveness, or when I feel that I will need help from God to complete something. I also sometimes pray when I feel scared or I need guidance in a situation. When I’m scared I pray so that I will be able to be strong and able to overcome any obstacles or challenges in my way. When I need guidance I don’t know what I should do, and I pray that God will help me make the decision for me.”
That is a pretty good example of working the relationship with God in prayer. It is as simple as bringing our troubles to God and asking for help. One way to make it better is to have absolute confidence that God is with you. Trust that you have the Eternal Life of Christ – his wisdom, courage, strength and perseverance. Pray daily and come to the Sunday Eucharist where we have a keen sense of the Father’s protection, and where the Life of the Risen Lord is poured into our hands. If we make a practice of daily prayer and Sunday Eucharist, we become more and more aware that we are held in the hands of God. Then we know the truth of Jesus’ promise, “No one can take [my sheep] out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of my Father’s hands. Then we become fearless like Jesus.