I’d like to talk to you about Narnia. You may think you are too old for Narnia but I certainly hope not! One never is really. C.S. Lewis’ classic series is children’s literature, but like all the greatest children’s works, they still hold much to delight even an adult. This is because Lewis does not underestimate children. The Pevensie children themselves would be dangerous to underestimate, as the White Witch can attest. Children are capable of great deeds and deep understanding.
The Church knows this too. For this reason she bestows the sacrament of confirmation on the young, the very same sacrament that came down in tongues of fire upon the Apostles. For a Catholic becoming like children is a good thing because it brings us back to wonder and innocence but by no means makes us weak or stupid.
Often Confirmation is seen as a rite of passage to Christian adulthood. There are many ways this is valid. However it can skew our thinking a little. It can result in seeing confirmation as a reward we earn for completion of a course of study. Yet the gifts of the Holy Spirit, like all grace, are unearned free gifts of a generous and loving God. Nor have we reached completion in receiving them. Far from it! How had the Apostles earned Pentecost? By hiding in an upper room? No it was a gift given to overcome their weaknesses more than some mark of a higher level of achievement.
And now we are ready to talk Narnia. Smack dab in the middle of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 10, we join three of the four Pevensie children travelling through the eternal winter of the White Witch. They are fleeing through the night, hoping to reach Aslan before they are overtaken by the witch and their traitorous brother Eustace. In the midst of their fear, hiding in a hole in a hole in the ground, they hear the dreadful sound of bells on a sleigh such as the pursuing witch uses.
But it is not the witch! Instead the sleigh belongs to Father Christmas, whose arrival signals the first weakening of Jadis’ power in Narnia. In a joyous respite from their flight Father Christmas presents each child with a gift.
“These are your presents,” says Father Christmas “and they are tools not toys. The time to use them is perhaps near at hand. Bear them well.” For Peter, he brings a sword and sheath. For Susan, a bow and arrows and a horn that will always summon help. For Lucy, a bottle of cordial to cure the gravest of wounds. How quickly his words prove true. Soon the children are fighting battles, summoning help, curing the sick, and saving their own dear brother. The gifts were splendid but most importantly they were useful.
You, dear young people, are not unlike these fictional Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. You too find yourselves journeying through an often hostile world. The older you get the more you must go out into it no matter the cold or the danger. You too must choose to flee towards God or away from him as Eustace did. And you too are given a mission. For this mission you have been given fabulous gifts. But they are tools not toys. They are not to be left like a sword rusting in a sheath or a bows string grown brittle with neglect. They are to be used for yourself and your fellow men to conquer the world for the Kingdom of God.
You are never too young to join the mission of the Church. You are never old enough to quit learning and growing. You find yourselves now, not at the completion of your journey but smack-dab in the middle, Chapter 10 of the novel. Run towards Jesus. Take up those precious gifts of your Confirmation and use them. Know each one intimately and pray for their increase, choose the best tool for your tasks and employ them wisely.
The bad news is, you haven’t earned much and you haven’t finished much. But that’s also the very best news of all. As the Narnians cry many centuries later in The Last Battle: Come further up, come further in!!