SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Bruder Klaus, Adult Confirmations
1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
1 Cor 15:45-49
Praised be Jesus Christ!
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’”
Our first reading recounting how David spared the life of King Saul, who was pursuing him through the land to kill him, presents in a very dramatic way what Christ intends by commanding us to love our enemies and those who persecute us.
Most folks would say something like, “What David did toward his mortal enemy, King Saul, demands a heroic level of inner fortitude.” Humanly speaking, fair enough! The right answer or the proper reading of what David did in sparing King Saul and what we are called to do as disciples of Jesus Christ goes far beyond what folks generally class as heroism. The Church and I would say that as David did and we are called to do in the face of our enemies is not just a question of inner fortitude. While grace builds on nature, it is necessary to say that what David did is possible by God’s grace alone. It is more than or something other than heroism.
I am bringing this topic up specifically because I am about to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on two adults of the Community. Amy and Destiny, David’s heroism in the face of the menace of death has to be yours and ours, but it is so in faith because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, of that grace which empowers us to be greater than what we are by nature or upbringing. It is not as if we are sending out a call for volunteers to do battle. Confirmation is not so much the trumpet call to the fight as it is the gentle invitation to bow under the mighty hand of God.
Do you want to better understand the sense of the Sacrament of Confirmation? Look no further than the lesson of David toward King Saul! David invoked the obedience and respect for the king decreed by the law and spared his king thanks to the grace, the power and strength of his own anointing.
Some catechists or preachers may talk about Confirmation as the “icing on the cake” or the coming of age as a church member; they may call it the sacrament of Christian maturity, and well, no. If that is your best try, then you will always be off the mark. Being sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit is in no sense a recognition of something we have become due to life experience or personal effort. Confirmation does not represent our decision to claim the baptism received in infancy as our own. Capability of choice or a certain level of maturity is not a prerequisite for receiving Confirmation. I will say it again: Being sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit is in no sense a recognition of something we have become due to life experience, personal effort or achievement. It is a God-given gift, and well, a gift is a gift. Let that notion, tied to that of strengthening in grace, just sink into our understanding and appreciation!
We need perhaps to shout it out again and again: All is grace! Jesus Christ, the Blessed Trinity, God, not I, moves time and clears our path to eternity. My choice is to embrace His Holy Will and go along with Him for the ride, with Him, Maker, Redeemer and Friend, along for the ride from glory to glory. When earlier in the Old Testament Book of Samuel we read that, years prior, the prophet Samuel (after King Saul’s disobedience to the Lord’s command) anointed David king to replace Saul, he did so in the midst of David’s brothers. God chose David over all the rest of the bigger and better boys of that big family in Bethlehem. Samuel anointed David who was the runt of the litter, the boy left behind to shepherd the sheep. God chose him and the spirit of the Almighty rushed upon him in that anointing.
David’s story helps us understand good Catholic teaching about grace and merit. It can help us understand the Sacrament of Confirmation. The ultimate victory, the victory over sin and death belongs to Jesus. I must bow under God’s mighty hand. I choose Him and holding Him tight, never letting go day or night, through Him, with Him and in Him I am able to claim as mine that prize which He won for me by His saving death upon the Cross and glorious Resurrection.
The first Adam… the last Adam:
“Just as we have born the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.”
In Baptism and Confirmation, we come to share in the heritage of the last Adam, of Christ. In the words of St. Paul, we take on His image. Hence, united with Him our life trajectory is radically changed.
A couple weeks back I was at the vernissage for an exposition celebrating one of Switzerland’s visiting cards in the world, one of which people can be duly proud, namely its system of direct democracy. It troubled me though that absent from the presentation and discussion, as well as from the appreciation offered by many in attendance at the event, were the notions of value and truth. It was as if we could hold to the first Adam, who disobeyed God and brought sin and death upon the world, and it would be fine as long as we did it democratically. No, the Gospel message is that we are made for much more and better.
There are tons of applications we can draw out from this. The business about exalting something called democracy that has no anchor or ground in the truth is not a Swiss problem alone. It is symptomatic of Western society most everywhere you look. Governments sign things into law contrary to God’s law and justify their wrongdoing based on a majority vote, of the so-called will of the people.
Majority opinion cannot be my anchor. I must be rooted in what always was, is and will be, I must be rooted in Christ and in the tradition which binds me to Him, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Most people of good will have no problem with that principle. It is just that they find it terrifying, sort of like trying to comprehend why David, the good guy, refused to take out his mortal enemy when he had the chance.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Call that type of a principled life heroically virtuous, but do not call it unattainable. Church tradition will provide us with the moral compass to stay on the straight and narrow. Our anointing with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation will carry us, if by a life of prayer, penance and humble submission to God’s Will, we hold tight to Jesus.
Praised be Jesus Christ!