This Sunday is the day of your confirmation. On your own two legs, in your own voice, independently and publicly and according to your own sole faith, you will declare that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. I won’t say it for you this time, nor with you, nor to you. You, child, will confess it all alone. You will say, “I believe. This is who I am now: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered and was crucified and died and was buried and on the third day rose from the dead. All this for me! It is my life. It is my soul and my self.” ~~~Walter Wangerin, Jr., Little Lamb Who Made Thee? A Book About Children and Parents
I love Confirmation Sunday, but it always carried with it a bit of a maudlin spirit to it. I find great satisfaction in seeing each year of confirmands bring their Christian Education to fruition through the end of their 9th grade year. I cherish the contact I have with them. Confirmation is another one of those “favorite things” that I adore about parish ministry. But it is hard not to turn inward in my reflection, and think about my own kid’s confirmations. In doing so, I confront the truth that Wangerin offers in his brief words – namely that my kids have moved on, and do not need me to be the kind of parent I have been for so many years. It is hard to confront the fact that my direct protective presence is waning, maybe to a pretty modest level … even though I know that God is still very present to them.
It didn’t happen all at once, thankfully. High school years … college years … marriage for each of them … and their early days of sorting out their lives. Truth be told, of course, they have been bearing the lion’s share of the spiritual work by themselves since they were 15 years old. I simply am close enough to observe the process and think that I am more actively involved than I really am. It is a joy and privilege to watch your kids become adults and see which lessons have “stuck” with them, which ones have been amended by them, and which ones have been discarded. We have the privilege of seeing what one of them, at least, looks like as a parent herself. You get to see brief flashes of the kind of adults they have become. It is a joy to watch them fly on their own. But there is some sense of loss and grief associated with it. Since the Rite of Confirmation is a “rite of passage,” it brings this reality home more concretely than most other experiences I have with young adults.
So, as you pray and meditate this week, think about those places in your life where you have had the privilege of mentoring others – as a parent or grand-parent; as a coach or teacher; as a manager or supervisor; or as spiritual companion to someone new to the faith. Think about the aspects of that mentoring process that are exciting and motivational for you – and recognize them for what they are – the spirit of evangelism. We don’t often think of these experiences in these terms, but evangelism is exactly what you are doing. You are sharing the wisdom and excitement of a way of life that has been important to you. You may use words on occasion, but more often you use your deeds and actions to speak for you. The literal meaning of evangelism is not much different – we are called to speak about a way of life that we cherish. We use words at times, but more often use our actions. It is a mentoring process in the faith, for sure. As you pray this week, ask God to open you up to these kinds of experiences and opportunities. Give yourself a little credit for spreading the Word. And celebrate that spirit of outreach with which God has blessed you.