Joy and Hope
February 6, 2010
The Spirit of Jesus gives us courage
On Saturday, Jan. 30, I celebrated Mass for the first annual Confirmation Conference, held at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. I was delightfully surprised to walk into a gymnasium that overflowed with 1,300 plus teenagers who were “on fire” with Christ’s Spirit, in keeping with the theme of the day.
Following is the homily that I shared with the young people who are preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation in the months ahead.
In the first reading today, from the Second Book of Samuel (II Sam. 12.1-17), we witness a very tense and difficult situation. Nathan the prophet goes to King David to challenge him about what he has done.
David had abused his power as the king. He slept with the wife of one of his soldiers while this soldier was away fighting a war for his king. To hide his sin, David secretly ordered this soldier to be placed in a battle where he would be killed. He then took the soldier’s wife for his own. He used his powers for his own evil purposes and thought he could get away with it. Nathan the prophet is sent by God to challenge David. He tells the King the wrong he has done. David immediately admits his wrong and repents.
David and his sin are at the center of this sad tale but I want us to look more closely at Nathan. What he did was courageous. He went to the king and accused him of a great sin to his face. Nathan, knowing how powerful David was, challenged the mighty king. The only thing with which to challenge him was the truth. David had already demonstrated that he was willing to take another life to hide the truth. This did not frighten Nathan, the prophet. He told the truth to power and the power of truth won. This was surely not an easy task.
Imagine Nathan walking through the palace of the king with soldiers and guards all around. Imagine him standing before the legendary King David, who had slain the giant Goliath. Nathan trusted. He not only trust in what he knew was the truth. He also trusted in the one who holds all the truth. He trusted in the God of truth and was willing to risk his own life for the truth of God.
We can all identify with David. Whether our sins are great or small, we are all sinners. Like David, we often try to hide from our sins or we hide because of our sins. This is not a good way to live. At this conference, you are preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation. In that sacrament you will receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Jesus.
This same spirit gave Nathan the courage to live and speak the truth even when it was not an easy thing to do. The Holy Spirit gave Nathan the light of wisdom to see the truth and the courage to proclaim the truth even when his own life was at risk. The Spirit gave Nathan peace of mind and tranquility of heart as he stood in a challenging, conflicted situation.
You will receive this spirit in confirmation so that you can know the truth of Jesus and the truth of Jesus can live in you. The Spirit of Jesus living in you will give you courage, perseverance, peace and joy as you live in a world filled with confusion and conflict. Even when you, yourself, might be struggling with confusion and conflict, the Lord Jesus can give you the courage, perseverance, peace and joy to carry on. You must stay connected to Christ. You must know Christ, live with Christ, and trust in his wisdom and love.
This means not only knowing about Christ. You must personally know the Lord Jesus. Look at the Gospel today (Mk. 4.35-41). The disciples found themselves in a boat, out on a huge lake tossed about by a raging storm. Even though Jesus was with them, they were frightened to death. Jesus calms the storms but even then, the disciples still wondered, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Jesus protected them. He watched over them. His voice calmed the sea and stilled the raging wind. Yet they still did not know him. They still did not trust him. It would take them awhile before they would come to know, love, and trust the power of the wisdom and love of Jesus.
Like those disciples in the boat, we are also disciples of the Lord but we still may not know him and trust him. He walks with us. He protects us. He watches over us. He also wants to give us the power of his wisdom and love. I hope this conference helps you to know Jesus and trust in his truth and love.
Many times, we want to trust in ourselves. We let our feelings or our fears guide the decisions we make. Too many times, we trust whatever everyone tells us. We think, “Everyone is doing it. It must be OK.” Probably not. We don’t want to stand out so we don’t stand up for what is right. We go along to get along. Remember Nathan. He stood up to David because he knew he was standing in God’s gaze. The power of God’s truth gave him the power to stand up to David, even though it seemed like he stood alone. Nathan knew he was not alone. The truth was more than an idea or an opinion. Standing in truth, he stood with God and God stood with him. His trust in God is what brought David to his knees in repentance.
The powerful, prophetic spirit that gave Nathan such a trusting heart and a courageous soul is already at work in your heart. The spirit of Jesus is preparing you to receive his gifts in confirmation. You must continue to prepare your heart and your mind so that, like Nathan. you can know the Lord and trust in his wisdom and love. Let me share with you four important gestures that can help you stay connect to Christ so that you can know Jesus and trust Jesus.
Folding your hands together. Holding hands with one another. Opening your hands to read. Offering your hands to receive. (At this point, I modeled for them each of the gestures and the assembly of young people followed my example.)
Folding your hands together: This is often a gesture of prayer. Folding our hands together is a sign of bringing heart and mind together, bringing our body and soul together, and – more important — bringing Christ and me together. We bring all that together to be at peace with God and ourselves.
Holding hands with one another: Choose your friends carefully and spend time with them. Hold your family close. Spend time with your family. Spend time — especially the Lord’s time on Sunday — with your parish community. Hold and help each other in faith.
Open your hands to read and study: (At this point I placed a book and an Amazon Kindle into the open hands of two students.) Take advantage of the time to study and learn. You must develop your mind and your skills so that you can use well the gifts God gave you. Study the Scriptures. Pray the Scriptures. It is a good way to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus.
Offering your hands to receive: This is one of the reverent gestures for receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. We open our hands to receive him and our hearts to welcome him. Our hands become a throne and our souls become his temple.
If you practice these gestures regularly and they become a regular part of your life, you will grow to know Jesus and you will come to trust his wisdom and love day by day. He will be the truth that will set you free, free to live the truth and proclaim the truth with courage and love, hope and joy.
Please pray for the young people who participated in this confirmation conference. Remember to pray that the same Spirit they will receive may also revive our own faith. Together with them, may we faithfully and frequently practice the rituals of prayer, fellowship, study and Eucharist.