How would you define the word irony?
Might I propose a good working definition as: a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.
The same Peter, who out of fear for his own life three times denied that he ever knew Jesus, is now standing in front of the Christian community in Jerusalem boldly declaring the truth about Jesus Christ for the entire world to hear.
The Jewish people are so confounded by what is happening that they think these first apostles are drunk and Peter must convince his audience that these apostles are not drunk on alcohol but on the Holy Spirit.
Three Lessons from Acts Chapter 2: A Talk to Confirmation Candidates
At the end of his long speech, Peter implores the Jewish people to “repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
It is this same Holy Spirit that came to you in the Sacrament of Baptism and will be coming to you in a very special way in little less than a month when you will stand up before this Christian community and complete your Christian initiation. You will be asked to proclaim your faith in the creed; the same proclamation your parents and godparents made for you on the day of your baptism.
As the time draws near for your Confirmation, might I strongly suggest that each of you go back and re-read prayerfully the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and see how the Lord is speaking to you in the depths of your heart this very night.
As I reflected on this reading from Acts, three lessons come to mind that I hope you make your own as the day of your Confirmation approaches.
1. Being a Witness of Jesus Christ
Being a witness for Jesus Christ is never easy, and in our own times it is once again becoming downright dangerous. The reading we just heard tells about Peter boldly proclaiming the need for a baptism to forgive sins. The second chapter of Acts ends with a young fiery witness of Jesus Christ, Stephen being stoned to death for his refusal to deny the Lord.
This is the faith that each of us is called to on a daily basis. We must never let anything interfere with our relationship with Jesus Christ. You are called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ at all times; in the schools that you attend, at home, on the sport field or out with friends.
We are all called to be witnesses when it is popular or not popular. We are living in a culture that de-values the sacredness of life, denies the dignity of marriage and family life, that denies each and every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, that holds material goods and possessions as being most important, that cheapens God’s gift of sexuality and that contends your moral worth is what you have not who you are.
We are all called, and each of you being sealed with the Holy Spirit in a special way, are called to challenge this culture by the lives that we live and standing up for what is right. This is not optional; it is who we are as Christians and who we are to the core of our very being. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not easy, and each of us is called to be like Stephen even when that means sacrificing our very lives.
2. The Holy Eucharist and The Sacrament of Penance
This year of study has been a special one for each of you. You have made Sunday Mass a staple of your lives. You have received the Sacrament of Penance during Advent and will receive it again in just a couple of weeks. Your reception of these two Sacraments, more than any other “program,” has made this year special for each of you. Now the hard part begins! Confirmation is not an ending it needs to be just the beginning!
Each week when you come to Sunday Mass, the Eucharistic Jesus strengthens you for all the curve balls that life will throw at you. In my own life, when I feel as though my faith might be wavering or I am going through a tough patch, it is the Eucharistic Jesus that brings me back. The Eucharist is the perfect meeting place in which to meet the Lord and our brothers and sisters. It is where Christian community begins. In Holy Communion we are bound more closely to God and our neighbor.
There will be times you may not feel like getting up on a Sunday morning and attending Mass. It is on days like this that you need to pray for the strength to fulfill the promises first made in baptism and now confirmed in Confirmation. All the other great things you might do in life; becoming a great athlete, developing into a great musician, studying law or medicine, working on Wall Street—they all mean nothing if you have forgotten that our purpose for being placed on this earth is to serve God and others and in the end to be happy with God forever in heaven.
We are all called to be saints and be united with God in heaven. Saints are those who do the ordinary things in life with great love. Each and every one of us is called to have that same love.
In the Sacrament of Penance Jesus comes to wash our sins away and make us a new creation. Don’t think of sin as some abstract concept. Sin is nothing more than looking inward and doing what I want above the needs of others. Sin attempts to objectify people for my own wants and needs. Pope Francis in so many of his talks to young people has implored them to reject the goals of our materialistic throwaway culture that places objects above people.
3. The Importance of Mary, Our Blessed Mother
The first chapter of Acts which begins with the apostles in the upper room in Jerusalem with Mary, the mother of Jesus. She watched over the apostles and the early Christian community in the days after Jesus died, rose and ascended into heaven. She never ceases to watch over each of us and constantly draw us into the life of her Son.
As you spend these last few weeks in preparation to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, each of you needs to ask our Blessed Mother to continue to watch over and protect you. We need to come before Mary like we do our own parents and speak from the heart. She is a mother who experienced the joys and hopes, sadness and disappointment that all parents feel. There is no human emotion or human experience that is outside of her understanding. She will lead us to her Son.
A daily Hail Mary prayer to begin the day and to end the day, praying the Rosary and just sitting quietly and talking with Mary will enable each of us to live out more deeply our baptismal and confirmation promises.
In my own life when I sometimes feel as though I am drowning, I just sit and ask Mary to help me – to show me where her Son wants me to go. Sometimes on my way into school in the morning I ask Mary to help me be more like Jesus for all that I come into contact with that day.
Such Good Friends
I think of a story I once heard someone tell about Mary and her relationship with her Son, Jesus Christ. A man who had a very difficult life passed away after living to an old age. This man sometimes went to Church but more often than not struggled mightily with his Christian faith. He had been in and out of prison, had overcome numerous addictions, was involved in a series of bad relationships and always seemed as though he was on a journey that never ended. He would not be what the world would classify as “saint material.”
The one thing the man did every day of his life, out of a deep love and respect for his grandmother, was to say a few Marian prayers. Sometimes he could barely get the words out he was so down in the dumps but not a day ever went by that he did not beg for Mary’s assistance. When he dies he stands at the door of heaven and is greeted by Saint Peter. The man is now perfectly aware of just what a sinful life he had led and how many opportunities he had wasted. Saint Peter announces to him, “Come meet your Savior Jesus Christ.”
The man is convinced there must be some mistake. There is no way he is getting into heaven. He is escorted by Saint Peter into the most beautiful room with the incredible smell of spring flowers and their beautiful fragrance. Into the room enters his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The man prostrates and Jesus bends down to pick him up. The man starts bitterly weeping and tells the Lord all his sins and that there must be some kind of mistake. Jesus looks down upon him with love and utters words that each of us should pray about and take to heart.
“My Mother has told me all about you. The two of you are such good friends and she speaks so highly of you. Come enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”