April 18, 2023 // Bishop
Bishop Confirms 52 at Cathedral in Fort Wayne
“You are called to be saints!” With great enthusiasm, Bishop Rhoades implored a message of authentic Christian discipleship to 52 Confirmation candidates from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Queen of Angels, St. Peter, and St. Joseph, in Fort Wayne on Thursday, April 13.
In his homily at this Confirmation Mass, Bishop Rhoades recounted the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus, who encountered the risen Jesus but did not recognize Him until the “breaking of the bread.” He also highlighted Jesus’ subsequent appearance to the disciples, appearing to them when they were hiding in the Upper Room and saying with compassion, “Peace be with you.”
Bishop Rhoades explained that Jesus longs to gives us gifts, most fundamentally the gift of Himself in the Eucharist, which He gives to the disciples at the Last Supper as a way of remaining with Him. When He comes to them after the Resurrection, He gives them the gift of His peace, seeking to free them from anxiety and fear, especially about the fear of death.
Speaking about the day’s Gospel, Bishop Rhoades said, “When Jesus came into the Upper Room, the apostles were afraid. Jesus beckoned them to touch Him, to see that He was not a ghost, that He was truly alive, even asking for a piece of fish to eat before them. He encourages them not to be afraid or to live in fear, because He has overcome even death.”
He continued, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the most amazing event in human history. From the perspective of physics, it is the elevation of matter to a way of existing beyond what is possible in the normal state of the universe. It doesn’t go against physics. It just goes beyond it. Similarly, from a biological perspective, Pope Benedict XVI said that ‘the Resurrection of Jesus was an evolutionary leap.’ We are talking about a new way of existing that goes beyond even death. On Easter Sunday morning, it was the death of death, the power of life and love over sin. We are able to share in this life that goes beyond death through the Sacraments. Jesus told His apostles, ‘I send the promise of My Father upon you, to cloth you with power from on high,’ to go forth and preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His Name to all nations.”
Bishop Rhoades emphasized that the disciples’ trust and openness to God prepared them to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He stressed, “You are united to Christ already by your baptism, now you are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ by the way you live, by living your faith with conviction like the saints!”
Conversing with the students and asking them questions, Bishop Rhoades saw that many of those before him would soon be taking patronal names of saints who had died as Christian martyrs. He shared that the courage to lay down one’s life for the faith would only be possible with a deep trust in the goodness of God. Such trust allowed these saints to overcome anxiety, even anxiety about death, through their confidence in Christ.
One such example that Bishop Rhoades expounded upon was St. Jose Sanchez de Rio, a 14-year-old boy who was threatened for his Christian faith but remained firm in his conviction that “Jesus Christ is King!” This led to brutal persecution, suffering, and death. The example and witness of the saints, especially those who revealed tremendous love for God at a similar age as these young students, shows that such love for God is possible with openness to faith.
He concluded, “You might not become martyrs, but you may have to face serious criticism and opposition as disciples of Christ. You will be tempted to do things that you know are wrong, but you can call upon the Holy Spirit for strength, to endure being ridiculed or even rejected for not doing things that you know are contrary to God’s will. All the saints were human, like us. What made them so great was that they opened themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit. They prayed and had a close relationship with God, they received the Eucharist — many of them every day! They loved and served others. That’s why I am confirming you tonight, so that you will have the gift of the Holy Spirit within you. My prayer for every one of you is that you will become saints.”
Following Mass, Bishop Rhoades expressed his gratitude to all the parents, sponsors, teachers, and religious educators who helped prepare and walk with these students on their sacramental journey. He also commended the students themselves for their willingness to be receptive to God’s graces and their commitment to following Him in love.
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