by Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
In many cultures, there is a definite stage in life a child becomes a young adult—a person who begins to enjoy privileges of society as well as take on responsibilities and duties. For example in Latin America culture a Quinceañera is celebrated when a girl turns fifteen. It dates back to the Aztec and Mayan times, somewhere around 500 B.C. However, in our culture, as Nancy Brown (“Coming of Age”) notes, important stages in children’s lives are not celebrated. “Boys do not usually mark the transition. For girls, periods are kept very private and rarely spoken about….” Furthermore, she notes that this changing of relationships in family, society, and institutions are not recognized. I believe that the Church should fill that void left by society with Confirmation.
In Luke 2:39-52, Jesus at the age of 12 recognizes this transition from boy to a young adult. He stays behind in Jerusalem after Passover. Discovering his absence, his parents search for him. When they find him, he’s sitting in “the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” In response to his parents’ reaction to him slipping away from them, he says, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
This story reflects Jesus’ coming of age and understanding his identity in the world. He’s stating his position and also the transitioning of relationships with his earthly parents. The story should aid the church in understanding the confirmation process. Confirmation is usually understood as a time when young persons who were baptized as infants confirm their faith in Jesus and become full members of the church. However, I’m advocating a greater role for it: a ritual to help them deal with changing relationships with all aspects of society.
A long time ago, a boy knew when he became a man and a girl, a woman. The process of Confirmation will not reverse the prolonging of adolescence in our society. Nevertheless, it should equip children to prepare for this wonderful transition period and celebrate their becoming the person that God wants them to be. A Jewish father at a Bar Mitvah prays “Blessed be He who has released me from being punishable for this [child]” but I like for us to pray, “Blessed be He who has released my child from my hand to His!” And, we’ll continue to participate, encourage and contribute to the person’s spiritual journey with God.