Today is all about getting ready to be confirmed.
In July, Archbishop George will come to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation – to pray for God’s Holy Spirit to come on you in a new and deeper way.
But before that happens, we have to get ready. The parish catechists will be working with you over the next few weeks to help you prepare.
Now that’s a bit of a pain, isn’t it!
Having to come to church for special sessions for a few weeks.
Can’t the bishop just come, pray for the Holy Spirit, and that’s that?
Even Jesus’ own hand-picked apostles had to wait and prepare for their confirmation.
How do we know? It’s in today’s readings. 40 days after he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared one last time to his apostles and he said: My Father and I are going to send you the Holy Spirit. Go into the city and wait!
Urgh! Waiting! Who likes waiting?
But the apostles had to wait.
While they waited, they daydreamed about what would happen when the Spirit came.
Some of them hoped that God’s Spirit would give them superpowers, to kick butt and chase the Romans out of Jerusalem. But Jesus had dropped plenty of hints that this wasn’t the kind of thing he had picked the apostles for.
Instead, we need to listen to St Paul’s letter to find out what the Holy Spirit does. And what St Paul tells us is that the Holy Spirit helps us understand God’s message better.
First of all, God wants you to know that you are absolutely fantastic. I don’t mean that God is always impressed with the all the stuff you do – and I won’t ask the parents and relatives here this evening if they are always impressed by the stuff you do – but even when you mess up, God is rooting for you. If you let the Holy Spirit speak deeply to your heart, you will know, just know, that God will never abandon you as long as you try to do what’s right.
Second, God wants to challenge you to do stuff like Jesus. That means that instead of looking for the most popular person so you can hang out with them, the Holy Spirit wants to open your eyes to see the person who gets left out, or the one who’s feeling glum. When you spot that person in need, go and offer your help and your friendship.
Third, God wants you to be peacemakers. If you let the Holy Spirit get hold of you, God will nudge you to be the first to stop a fight, the last to start one, and quick to say sorry once the red mist has cleared away and you know you’re in the wrong. Every time you make peace or say sorry, you grow a little in God’s eyes. You might think you’ll lose some respect from your friends – what matters is that you gain respect from God. You might not believe that right now, but that’s why God wants to put His Spirit in you – to take away the values of the world around us and write God’s values on your heart instead.
So back to the Apostles. What did they do while they were waiting for the Holy Spirit? They prayed! The Book of Acts tells us that the 11 Apostles joined with Mary the Mother of Jesus and some of the other women and men, and they prayed continuously! They spent a whole week praying! On the tenth day, the day of Pentecost, Jesus kept his promise, and the Holy Spirit came.
Well, I’ve got bad news and good news. The bad news is that we can’t rush your confirmation through in ten days’ time like the Apostles. The good news is that since we have a little longer, you don’t have to spend all day, every day, praying. But during this time of preparation, it is important to remember to pray. So I’m going to suggest a quick way you can pray to God every morning.
First, you need to pick up your phone. No, not the one in your pocket, the one you were born with.
Next, you need to dial the right connection. The phone is voice activated and it goes like this: “Come Holy Spirit!” You might not hear it ringing, but trust me, the connection always works.
Now, these three fingers in the middle remind are to you of the three things it’s always good to say to God. “Sorry! Thanks! Please!” So before you make the call, there are three things to think about. What do I need to say sorry to God for? What good stuff has happened that I ought to say thank you for? And what help do I – or the people I know – need from God today?
God knows what you are thinking about, so you don’t need to spend a long time putting it into words. He understands. Just remember that “Sorry! Thanks! Please!” together make a really good prayer.
When you’re done, you can hang up. This phone has a voice-activated hang-up code too, it goes like this: “Amen.” The call’s over, and you can get on with your day.
Now, a word to your sponsors and families. You have already been confirmed, so you have an even greater responsibility to pray. I would like to invite you to pray daily for each candidate. You can pray in your own words, or you could offer a Hail Mary each day, and leave the prayers in the hands of the Mother of God.
Finally, a word to each and every person here present this evening: It’s not enough to be confirmed, and allow the Archbishop to pray for God’s Spirit to make a home in you. You need to keep inviting the holy Spirit to stay with you each day of your life! If you keep asking God’s Spirit to guide you each day, you too will experience God’s glory.
Let me finish by echoing the words of St Paul: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, send anew into your hearts the Holy Spirit. May he make you open to all the Holy Spirit wishes to do in your life. May God’s Spirit cause you to rejoice in the goodness of God and fill you with hope of a joyful reward at the end of a life spent in his service.
And have great confidence in what God can do – this promise is for you and for your children!