Encountering Christ – learning from the leper.

‘Spirit’ Confirmation Programme 3.

The single most important question you guys need to ask and answer (your parents too) is; if Confirmation wasn’t part of school life would you be approaching your local Church to look for it?

Candidates for Confirmation participate in the first 'Spirit' Workshop.

Candidates for Confirmation participate in the first ‘Spirit’ Workshop.

Still, whether you know it or not, God is calling you guys through the very fact that Confirmation is a part of school life. He’s calling you through the ‘Spirit’ programme, through the adults who’ve given so freely of themselves, through all of us gathered here, through your teachers, and even through me!

But the greatest call is the call that comes from the direct encounter with Jesus Christ in his Word and in his body and blood offered to us in the Eucharist – although what I’m calling the ‘direct’ encounter is still being mediated through the Church!

I think the leper in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) can teach us much about Confirmation, about your Confirmation, about the Christian life in general.

The leper goes to find Jesus.

Without the effort of going out to meet Jesus – and we’re not told how much of an effort the leper had to make but it’s likely to have been significant – nothing would have changed for the leper. There’d have been no encounter with Christ and there’d have been no healing. Same old, same old, same old life!

Confirmation presumes you’re making the effort to go out and meet Jesus. If there’s no effort on your part then Confirmation – and remember what Confirmation is; the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Divine-self – will be like throwing seeds on patches of rock where there’s little soil.

Incidentally Pope John Paul II used to love to ask people: What did you do with your Confirmation? Well, what do you think?

The leper can teach us other things too about life with God – or life without God!

Generally, like the leper people won’t go looking for God until they have a need. Confirmation presumes you have a need for God. Do you have a need for God?

When the leper encounters Christ – when Jesus stretches out his hand and says: “Of course I want to! Be Cured!” – the lepers life is changed. Yes, his life is made better, enhanced, which is what the presence of Christ always does in a life, but that life is also changed, radically.

The radically changed life is something we often miss and I’m not sure whether we miss it through simple ignorance or if it’s a very deliberate attempt to make the teaching of Jesus suit us. When Jesus stretches out his hand, whether to the serious sinner or the seriously ill, a real change is effected in their lives, sinners, outsiders, the marginalized start putting right what’s wrong – often what wasn’t considered wrong before the encounter with Christ – and simultaneously they enter a deeper experience of the kingdom of God. Indeed, the change is the proof that the kingdom of God is present.

As Christ is encountered, things that didn’t seem wrong are suddenly seen to be wrong. As Christ is encountered, the catechism is encountered. The more the kingdom of God takes hold of us the more we’ll understand even the difficult teachings of the Church, things that just seemed like nonsense before our growth in Christ!

Finally, do you know where to go to encounter Christ?

Well, in truth, it can happen almost anywhere, but there’s one very privileged place. Where is it? It’s the reason your teachers constantly remind you that there’s to be no talking in the Church. God has given one particular place that is the unequaled place of encounter: Mass, and as a result of Mass; the Tabernacle and Adoration.

You guys probably pass a Church many times every week. How often do you call in to speak with Jesus present in the Tabernacle?

You guys change that – start calling in for 10 minutes every day and just talk to him – and he’ll change your whole life, from the inside out, and it’ll be a much better life than the one you’ll make without him!

God is calling you – by name!

But can you hear it? Can you see it? Or will your Confirmation remain unused, an unused key to an unknown kingdom?

Your choice. You choose.

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