Confirmed to Put into Action the Truth of Christ the King
November 20, 2021
Saturday Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Mass readings: Daniel 7:13-14; Apocalypse 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
Homily delivered at the
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco, CA
On the occasion of
The Celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation
for Adults of the Archdiocese of San Francisco
I recall an episode of my life many years ago now. I was visiting a seminary classmate of mine who is a pastor in another part of the country. And it was an election year, and it was around election time, and he told me about a curious homily he gave to his congregation. He said, “I gave them this homily. I told them, ‘I know I am not supposed to tell you how to vote. We have an election coming up, but I am not supposed to do that. But I am going to tell you how to vote.’” I was puzzled and thought, What is he saying? He said, “I want you to vote to restore the monarchy.” I was perplexed, but then I figured out what he meant.
What he meant is the mystery of our faith we are celebrating today. He wanted them to vote to restore the monarchy of Christ, Christ being the King, the Ruler of our life. When our lives are given over to Christ, that is when we can have a truly just and flourishing society.
The Christian Idea of Kingship as “Servant Leadership”
That idea of a king might be kind of hard for us to understand nowadays with our now-many centuries of experience of democracy. Kings are either sort of a quasi-mythical figure or maybe a rather harsh figure that we think of more like a dictator than a ruler. In the Church’s tradition, though, the Christian idea of a king or any kind of a monarch is what we call nowadays “servant leadership”. The king would be one who is very dedicated to helping his citizens attain holiness in life. So, there was this idea of cooperation between Church and state, especially in service to the poor.
And we have many saints who were of the noble class, the ruling class, kings and queens, and so forth, who were exemplary in living that way. There is St. Louis IX of France; there is St. Henry, who was the king of Bavaria. A few days ago, we celebrated the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who was very exemplary in living this way. In fact, she used the wealth that she had from her state in life to serve the poor. And she did so herself, personally, attending to the sick, washing their clothes, bathing them, even to the point that at the end of her life, she sold everything she had to become poor herself with just one worn-out dress in which she died. So, this is, like I said, what we call nowadays “servant leadership”. That is the ideal of a king that we need to strive for.
Living as Kings and Queens over Ourselves through Prayer
Well, we do not have kings anymore, but in a sense, we all need to be that kind of king or queen of our own life. The king or queen is the one who has governance over the kingdom, over the realm. The idea is that we need to have governance of ourselves, that we can live in a way that shows that Christ is the one who is the ruler of our life. Self-governance is the idea. So how do we do that?
I would suggest it is basically to do what I would imagine you did in preparing for Confirmation. You need to keep doing that. It is not something you check off your to-do list, and then you go back to life as it was before. This is a step forward. You need to keep going forward in your faith journey. So, first and foremost, the most important thing is prayer, right? Prayer is our communication with God, not just telling God what we need, asking Him for favors, but above all listening to God: so, meditating on Scripture, praying the Rosary, just being still before the tabernacle, attentive to the Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, to hear God speaking to us in silence, taking that time for silence every day. There is so much noise and distraction in the world. I think it is harder and harder for people to preserve silence, it is so important to have that space of time so we can hear his voice.
This is what He tells us in the gospel today. He says, “The one who belongs to the truth hears my voice.” Do you hear the voice of Jesus speaking to you? There are many voices out there competing for your attention and they are much louder. And there is so much cacophony, it is harder for the voice of Christ to get through. There are voices that are leading you down wrong paths of how you are going to find happiness in life. They tell us that the path to happiness is to have the old myth of lots of riches. Not only that, that any way you can get rich is acceptable and justifies the means. You can use people, destroy them in the process if it is going to make yourself rich.
There are voices telling you to do whatever you want with your bodies, if it makes you feel good, or if it gets you popular acclaim. There are voices that tell us that we are really going to flourish in life if we can wield power over other people, so it is okay to do whatever you need to do in order to get your own way. Those are all dead ends.
The Voice of Jesus, the Voice of Truth
The True Voice is the voice of Jesus. He is the one who gives us life to follow in his way. So, first and foremost, to preserve that life of prayer, that means a lot of things. That means your personal prayer, that time aside, that quiet space of time every day. It means prayer with the Church. The most important thing we do as Catholics we are doing right now, right? The Sunday Mass, keeping the Lord’s Day holy by worshiping Him with his people at Sunday Mass.
This also means the whole sacramental life of the Church. We also have that other sacrament that, if we are going to receive Communion, helps us to prepare to receive worthily, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession should be a regular part of the life of any sincere and devout Catholic, not just a couple of times a year, but frequently throughout the year. So, there is the life of prayer and the sacramental life of the Church.
Then, I would imagine you did some study of the faith in preparing for Confirmation. So, you need to continue studying your faith. You know, there are a lot of great resources out there now, especially with the modern means of technology that we have. You are just barely beginning. There is tons to learn from 2,000 years of saints and scholars who have mined the depths of the wisdom of Christ that He gives us in the Bible. So, strive to utilize those sources.
One source we are promoting in our archdiocese is called “Formed”. It’s from the Augustine Institute out of Denver, but it is an online resource that has all kinds of literature, catechetical texts, classic films, all kinds of resources to help us understand our faith better and grow more deeply in our knowledge of Christ.
Putting the Voice of Truth into Action
Then, finally, it cannot remain just in the head. The heart is our prayer, the head is our knowledge of the faith and knowledge of Christ, but then we need the hands as well. We need to put that faith into action in service. Service in your parishes – I am always happy when I visit our parishes because I see there is a lot going on in our parishes. They have very many, very vibrant ministries serving the wider community, parishioners serving one another. So, you have plenty of opportunities in your parishes to stay involved, to stay connected, then serving the wider community and serving the poor.
Confirmed to Preach the Gospel
This is also how you really live out the meaning of your Confirmation, because Confirmation is not just about what you have accomplished in life. Yes, it is grace you receive to help you on the way to salvation, but it is an evangelizing sacrament. That is, it has an outward focus. It recalls that God commissions us to go forth and proclaim the gospel to help bring others to Him.
Now, I imagine that for all of you, my brothers and sisters about to be confirmed, there was someone in your life who set you on this path. There was someone whom Christ used as sort of an angel to get you on the path of getting more serious about your faith and completing this preparation for Confirmation. Now it is your turn to do the same for others.
And there are many very subtle ways to do this. But I think they are very effective ways and they just come naturally to someone who is a devout Catholic. So, I will give a couple examples. I would imagine many of you are going to go out to dinner after Mass tonight. What is your conversation going to be like? What kind of language will you use? What sort of issues will you talk about? How will you speak of other people who come up in the topics of conversation? Will you say grace before your meal? That is a very subtle but powerful sign, when people gathered at a public place say grace before meals.
What about saying grace when you have a meal at home? Are you sure to do that, saying grace before you eat? How about when someone steps inside of your home, can they tell from your home that this is the home of a Catholic family? Do they see a Bible on the coffee table? And those decorative Bibles are very beautiful and worthy to be in a prominent place, but preferably a Bible that is clearly well worn (right?), that you have used a lot. Or a rosary on the end table next to the chair. Or a crucifix on the wall or a little holy water stoop at the entrance to the room. These are all signs that Catholics have classically used to foster the life of faith in the home. It is also a sign to someone who enters into your home that they know who you are.
Of course, there are the big ways, which is basically living the state of life that God has called you to. Living well and faithfully your marriage, for those who are married. To be honest and hardworking and sensitive to others in your workplace or in your school. Living our faith well and visibly in the communities with which we interact. These are some of the small, everyday ways you live out your Confirmation, bearing witness to the Good News. And then maybe somebody’s heart will be moved. Then maybe you can be that angel that will guide them on the path to a deeper life of faith so they might know Jesus Christ and come to be saved.
Confirmation is the sacrament in which, for Catholics who have been baptized as infants, they renew the baptismal promises that were made for them when they were baptized, made by their parents and godparents. They renew those promises themselves, renouncing sin and professing their faith as a sign that they are ready to live their faith maturely and responsibly. I pray that, by the strengthening and anointing you receive in the Spirit tonight, you might be faithful to that anointing and live your sacrament, your Christian vocation, and the personal vocation God has given you, very faithfully, very well, and very visibly, that you might touch other hearts with the love of Christ.