First let me thank you for your Confirmation letters which I read carefully. From them three words emerged that sum up the faith: 1) Listen; 2) Love; 3) Serve…listening, loving, and serving… three words that capture what it means to follow Jesus as a member of the Church. Since I boiled it all down to just three words, please do give me your full attention for the next few minutes!
A. Let’s begin with hearing, with listening. Have your parents or teachers ever said to you, “Why don’t you listen more?” Mom and Dad used to say that to me all the time and sometimes they still do! Sometimes we find it hard to listen to others, to hear what they are saying to us.
B. Whom will you listen to? I’m hoping that you listen to your parents, at least most of the time. But I’d also imagine you listen to teachers and coaches and to the person you’ve chosen as your Confirmation sponsor.
C. And why to do you listen to these people? Again, I’m going to guess it’s because you trust and respect them; you believe they have important things to say about your life and your future. Even so, it’s not easy to listen to other people, even those we like and trust, especially when they tell us things we’d rather not hear.
D. In the Gospel today Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” You and me – we’re the sheep – we’re members of Jesus’ flock, the Church. He speaks to us in Scripture, in the teaching of the Church, in the lives of the saints, and in the good example of those who really live their Catholic faith. As followers of Jesus we should listen to him because he knows and loves us better than we know and love ourselves. Even so, it’s not always easy to listen to the Lord. Many people start out listening to the Lord but somewhere along the way they stop, maybe because they are confused or worried, or just carried along by a world that often thinks it doesn’t need God.
E. So today you will receive three gifts of the Holy Spirit to help you listen to Jesus: the gift of wisdom so that you will value what the Lord says to you thru the Church; the gift of understanding so you will see how important the faith is for your life; the gift of knowledge so you can truly know Lord in a deep and personal way and live your whole life as his followers and as members of his Church.
A. The first word was “listen”. The second word is “love”. Let me tell you a story about the importance of love, (and since I’m getting old this story goes back a long way). When I was in the 3rd grade, way back in 1959, there were 55 of us in the class. We were all in one classroom and we had one teacher all day long – an elderly religious sister named, Sister Mary Viator. She had taught my dad in the 6th grade and taught me in the 3rd grade. It was not an easy thing to keep the attention of 55 third graders all day long but Sister Mary Viator had our complete and undivided attention, and why? For one thing she was funny, for another she told great stories, but the real reason we listened to her was because she truly loved us. We didn’t know much in the third grade but we knew she loved us.
B. When we really believe God loves us deeply and personally, that makes all the difference in the world. People who believe God loves them deeply and personally, have a better appreciation of their own dignity and worth. People who believe they are loved by God not only want to listen to the Lord but also worship him. We met some of those people today, in our second reading, from Revelation. It described the saints who worshipped the Lord on earth and who now worship the Lord forever in the joy of heaven. We are made not only to know God but also to love God and not just privately but as part of the family of faith he established, the Church. Sunday Mass, going to Confession regularly, daily prayer in the home – these are basic to Christian worship – that is, experiencing God’s love for us and expressing our love for God.
C. Today, you will receive two gifts of the Holy Spirit that will help you worship God: First is the gift of piety or reverence, deep respect for God. We worship the Lord not only because he loves us and gave himself for us, but also because he is “all good and worthy of all our love.” The second gift is wonder and awe or fear of the Lord, a gift that reminds us that we are not God’s equals, that we owe him everything, we owe him our love and our worship.
A. The first two words were “listen” and “love”. The final word is “serve” or “service”. In preparation for Confirmation, you’ve been doing Confirmation projects. You have taken time and made the effort to help others in need. If we would be like Jesus and follow him, we must live not just for ourselves but for God and for other people, especially those in need. Serving the poor and the vulnerable is not an optional part of following the Lord; it is essential – because when we serve those in need we are serving Jesus. This is one of the things we’re sure to be asked about when we get to eternity.
B. So don’t let your Confirmation service project be a one-time deal. Instead, get in the habit of doing good things for other people, especially those who can’t pay you back…that’s true Christian love and service. And today you will receive two additional gifts of the Holy Spirit to help you serve others as God wants us to – One is right judgment or counsel that helps you make good moral decisions but also helps you get your priorities right in a me-first world. The other is courage or fortitude because it takes a lot of courage to be a Christian, and to be a young person with moral values who loves and serves others. Part of serving, of course, is finding out what vocation God has in mind for you, for every vocation in the life of the Church is a vocation of service. Married couples give of themselves to each other, to their children, and to others. Priests dedicate their lives to serving Christ and the Church by preaching the Gospel, celebrating the Eucharist, and helping people follow Jesus. Religious are consecrated to the Lord and do amazing things in the Church’s life – serving in Catholic schools, hospitals, parishes, and social services. It takes courage to say “yes” to the Lord but you’ll always be glad you did.
Listen, love, serve. May the Holy Spirit inspire you to open your hearts to Jesus: to listen to his voice; to love him by worshipping him; and serve him by serving others. May God bless you and keep you always in his love!