Saturday, August 26, 2017

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 27.08.2017

Isaiah 22:19-23 / Romans 11:33-36 / Matthew 16:13-20

Today is a milestone for 15 of our teenagers, a milestone in their faith-formation. After almost 10 years of coming for catechism classes on Sundays, today they will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

To be “Confirmed” means to be strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But for what purpose? That’s the question that those 15 teenagers will have to answer for themselves.

And they must find the answer to that question, otherwise this milestone could well be the tombstone, as in the journey of faith has come to an end, since there will be no more catechism classes to attend.

But faith and life is not so much a question but it is more like a riddle. So we have to think “out of the box” and it can be quite challenging to solve it, be it a question or a riddle.

Let us do some riddles and see if we can think out of the box: 
- I am tall when I am young, but I am short when I am old. What am I?

- I have keys but no locks. I have space but no room. You can enter but you can’t go outside. What am I? 

- You can break me easily without even touching or seeing me. What am I?  

So much for riddles. Now let’s go back to the gospel. In the gospel, Jesus asked His disciples two questions.

The first question is “Who do people say I am?” The disciples replied that people say that He is John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Then Jesus asked them, “Who do you say I am?” As the disciples were thinking about what is the best and correct answer to give, it was Simon Peter who spoke up: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And he was correct! But as Jesus stated, it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to Simon Peter but it was God the Father who revealed this to him.

We may remember that Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate and it is the Spirit who will reveal things to us and lead us to the whole truth.

Yes, it is the Spirit who will defend us, help us, guide us, work in us and reveal to us the mysteries to the questions and the riddles of life.

And it is this same Spirit who will fill the hearts of our 15 teenagers in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and to strengthen them to face the gates of the underworld.

One of the expressions of the Sacrament of Confirmation is to be commissioned as a soldier of Christ, though it is seldom spoken of nowadays. 

“Christ Himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. Christians are also marked with a seal:  “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; He has put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1296)

The catechists of these Confirmands thought about it and then we came up with this idea of a survival kit to equip these teenagers as they go on mission for Christ.

So what is this missionary survival kit all about? Well, it’s all packed into a lunch-box but there are no edibles in it. So what are in it then? There are two sticks of cotton buds, a box of matches, a tea-light, a piece of Band-aid, a mirror, a petition form, a 5-cent coin, and a crucifix.

We call it the “Missionary kit”. And in it is a note that reads:

Now that you are Confirmed, you will need this:
2 sticks of cotton buds – one for you to clean your ears so that you can listen clearly to God’s Word, and the other for you to help others clean their ears so that they too can listen ...

When it gets dark and cold, the box of matches is for you to light the tea-light so that you can bring some light and warmth for others.

The Band-Aid comes in handy because in this world, people get some cuts and hard knocks along the way. You are to bind up their wounds and bring healing.

When you look into the mirror, you need to ask yourself, “Do I look like Jesus to others?”

Prayer must be the first option, the last option and the in-between option. That’s what the green Petition Form is for. 

The 5-cent coin is to remind you that you must remain little and humble always, and it also reminds you of the 5 wounds of Christ who died to save you.

It was on the Cross that Jesus died for you. He carried the Cross for you. Now you must carry your cross for the salvation of others

And it ends off with “Know that I am with you always, yes, till the end of time” (Matthew  28:20)

Those 15 teenage Confirmands must know that Jesus is always with them, till the end of time, as they go forth to serve Him in whatever and wherever the Spirit leads them.

And for us, Jesus is asking us who do we think He really is in our lives. And at the same time He is also asking us do we know who we really are. 

When we know who we really are, that we are marked and sealed with the Holy Spirit to serve Jesus in the mission of salvation, then we will know who Jesus really is.

Then we will be prepared to face the gates of the underworld as we go forth to save souls for Jesus.

(Ans: Candle, Computer keyboard, Silence/Promise)