In a year dedicated to the father of Jesus, Bishop Stika confirms youth of namesake parish
By Bill Brewer
For 16 confirmands at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Madisonville, and scores of others at churches throughout the Diocese of Knoxville during this confirmation season, being compared to the Apostles by Bishop Richard F. Stika was an unexpected blessing.
And just the kind of catechetical pep talk a young person can take to heart as she or he is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Stika confirmed the youths on May 8 and celebrated the Mass. Father Julius Abuh, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, was the concelebrant. Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey served as Deacon of the Word and Eucharist. Father Abuh expressed his thanks to Bishop Stika for being at St. Joseph the Worker Church to celebrate the confirmation Mass during the Year of St. Joseph.
The confirmands were presented to Bishop Stika with the understanding that “these young people of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, who have completed preparation for confirmation … are deep in their knowledge of Jesus Christ by studying the truths of our faith and are strengthened by the sacraments and supported by the prayers and example of their parish community….”
During his homily, Bishop Stika complimented the confirmands on completing the sacraments of initiation: baptism, Holy Communion, and confirmation.
He reminded them, citing Genesis, that they are created in the image of God, who teaches throughout the Bible that He wants his children of faith to succeed, not fail.
“He wants us to make a difference,” Bishop Stika said. “How do we show that? There’s this thing called sin in the world. There are all kinds of sins. Sins can weigh you down. God knew that, so what did he do? He sent his Son, Jesus, into the world. A lot of the Scriptures in the Old Testament said you have to be afraid of God or else He will turn you into a pillar of salt, or be struck down.
“In the New Testament, there is a real shift. Jesus talks about mercy, love, and commitment. And the gift of life itself. That is a tremendous change. Sometimes we assume that and don’t pay enough attention to it. We may think ‘Jesus has the whole universe to worry about. Why worry about me, Lord?’ Jesus came into this world because of you, because of each and every one of us. Jesus died for us all. And Jesus did not want us to be by ourselves. So he gave us these things called the sacraments: baptism, Eucharist, anointing of the sick, marriage, holy orders, reconciliation, confirmation that were instituted by Jesus to nourish us in the life of our faith. All these different sacraments nourish us, the death of Jesus nourishes us. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son into our world. That’s Jesus, the gift that is given to us.”
The shepherd of the Diocese of Knoxville cautioned the confirmands that people can get so caught up in their sins that they can really mess up their world. And because of that, it is vital to receive the sacraments, including confirmation.
“The gift of the Holy Spirit. What does it mean? It further solidifies your relationship with God in a very special way, like Pentecost. Anytime we open our hearts to God, He just fills the void. He’s there; He’s present because He doesn’t want us to fail. He watches us. He allows us to make mistakes. He doesn’t force us to make mistakes, but He allows it. Because one of the great gifts that God has given to us, besides faith itself, is the ability to make a choice. Otherwise, we would be a bunch of robots. We’re not robots. God has given us the ability to think and choose, and we make choices,” the bishop said.
Bishop Stika reminded the confirmands of the story surrounding Pentecost, when God made His presence known to the Apostles in the Upper Room with great wind and tongues of fire. And when the Apostles left the room, they journeyed to the far ends of the world at that time spreading the Word of God in different languages.
“I don’t know if any of you are bilingual, or trilingual, but what I do know is this: there are certain languages that everybody can understand. One of those is knowing that God is love. Don’t you think the world needs a little more love these days? And forgiveness? And compassion? The ability to listen to another person and not try to talk over them? The ability to make choices about reverence for life from conception to natural death, for people who live on the streets, and for people who suffer from racism, and from that which separates us?
“God is love. My prayer to all of you is that you keep your relationship with Jesus alive. And nourish that love,” the bishop said.
While many parishes have continued to celebrate their own confirmation Masses this year, as they did during the pandemic, Bishop Stika has presided at some. And his message is universal to all confirmands.
He complimented the St. Joseph the Worker confirmands on their selection of confirmation names, telling them that by choosing their names, they honor those saints. And in honoring those saints, then the confirmands will be honored.
He then asked the confirmands to renounce Satan and all his evil works, to believe in God, and then he said an ancient prayer that invokes the Holy Spirit before anointing them with chrism so they are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.