Homily for Pentecost Sunday and Confirmations

What is happening today?

Breath, air, wind; fire, flame; water, spring, river; wine, oil, anointing; energy, power, grace, fullness, life, light, love, gift.

These are names and symbols – just a few of them – for the Holy Spirit.

And it is This which Jesus, on the day of his Resurrection, breathed on the disciples in the closed room, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.    It’s This which fifty days later, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, Jesus, now ascended into heaven, sent from his Father on Mary, the apostles and the first Christian community – sent with a wind and tongues of fire  – sent to fill them.       This is the One whose coming we’ve been praying for these last days and whose coming is renewed every year in the liturgy of Pentecost.

Who is He? He’s the inner life of God. He has been in the universe from its beginning. He’s like the hidden nervous system of the whole creation. He’s the giver of life. ‘You take back your spirit. They die, returning to the dust from which they came. You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth’ (Ps 103). But we – human beings – have somehow become disconnected. Not totally, perhaps, but our connection now is weak, intermittent, uncertain. Today, though, the Holy Spirit comes in power. It’s like a new Genesis, a new creation. At Pentecost, the Catechism says, ‘he is manifested, given and communicated as a divine person.’ Today, God is made known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the kingdom of God is opened to those who believe. Today, we are reconnected, sin forgiven, grace restored.

Buses, trains, pubs, restaurants often offer ‘free WiFi’. And so if we are in that space, we are connected. Transferring this to the spiritual realm, the Church is the space, and the unseen Holy Spirit our free WiFi. Thanks to him, we are connected. We are connected with the inner life and love of God. It is poured into our hearts. We are united to Christ and each other. ‘In the one Spirit, says St Paul, we were all baptized, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and the one Spirit was given to us all to drink.’ This is the miracle of Pentecost: ‘Parthians, Medes and Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, and all the rest’ come together in the one Web of faith. Today, we are reconnected with God and one another. This is the mystery of the Church.

And what about our Confirmation candidates? St John Paul said, ‘Confirmation is a personal Pentecost for the whole of life.’ Forgive me, but the world of IT is so full of helpful images of the things of God. If we have an IPad or an IPhone, we can download Apps. There are Apps to help us find our way round Barcelona when we are lost or create a garden or make a motor-bike, or… Thanks to these Apps, we can know and do what we could not before. We become more capable. Dear candidates, think of yourself as an IPhone, complex and beautiful. Today, you receive a magnificent App. Today, when the bishop anoints your forehead and says, Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit and his seven gifts are downloaded into you. And you can do new things. You are empowered by grace. You can live a Christ-like life, moved by the same Spirit as he was. You can make a good gift of your life. You can share and show your faith to others. You can discover that ‘kind of service’ which will make sense of your life and lift the world, undoing the work of the spirit of evil. You can take a public part in the life of the Church, be a living member of your parish. You can pray with new confidence.

Here’s one vital way the Holy Spirit helps us. Life is about decisions. We have to make them every day. Most of them are little: do I walk or take the car? Some are medium-sized: where to live, for example. A few are major: what to do with my life? Do I marry this person? Do I believe? How do I practise my faith? The Holy Spirit helps us decide well, clearly, cleanly, confidently – especially in major matters. Let’s press on. In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit makes us witnesses of Christ as he made the Apostles at Pentecost. And how do we witness to Christ? Witness to his love and show our love of him, publicly? Here’s a way: by, Sunday after Sunday, taking part in the Mass, celebrating the Eucharist with our fellow-believers. This requires courage and consistency. It’s a profession of faith without any aggression, yet clear and open. There are two ‘threes’ which go together: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. They are linked. When we’re baptized we become children of God, like Christ, the Son of God. When we’re confirmed, we’re anointed with the Holy Spirit. When we go to Mass we come together in Christ before the Father. And so our Christian life comes to its climax and fullness. It makes a unity. It forms a whole. The Holy Spirit strengthens us. He confirms us in making good decisions. In a moment, dear candidates, you will say: ‘Yes, I believe’. You will confirm your faith. In a moment, you will be anointed with the Holy Spirit, the wind and the fire of God. How good, if in the power of that gift, you say, ‘Yes, Sunday after Sunday, I will join my brothers and sisters and go to the house of the Father and the table he has laid!’

Come, Holy Spirit! Come on all of us! Help us choose good, true and beautiful things!


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
A registered Scottish Charity Number SC005122