Homily at Harrington St Confirmations
OPENING WORDS TO THE CONGREGATION
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Sacrament of Confirmation brings with it an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as was granted at Pentecost to the disciples of Jesus.
Confirmation completes the Christian initiation which began with our baptism into the life of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Confirmation makes us more deeply children of God and members of Christ’s family; it makes our bonds with the Church stronger and gives us the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread the faith by word and deed and to be true witnesses to Christ, through confessing the name of Christ boldly and never being ashamed of the Cross.
Together we pray this morning that the Holy Spirit will come down these young people and be with them. We commit ourselves to accompany them with our prayers and example at this important moment in their Christian life and in the years to come.
FINAL WORDS TO PARENTS
The Rite of Confirmation at this moment asks me to remind the parents and sponsors of their duties towards these young people who have just been confirmed. In particular it reminds us of the duty to ensure these young people are trained in prayer and in the basic elements of the faith that are included in the Creeds and of the importance of devotion to Mary, Mother of God.
Today, despite attendance at Catholic schools, many young people head into life without a real understanding of prayer and of the elements of our faith. The Year of Faith will be an occasion for all of us to deepen our understanding of our faith and to profess that faith in such a way as to touch the hearts of the generations to come, and fill them with a true passion for Jesus, our Lord.
I pray that the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, will accompany the parents and sponsors as they exercise those responsibilities.
16th Sunday after Pentecost 2012
ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Saint Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street, 16th September 2012
Our first reading this morning is as challenging today, regarding what our Christian faith involves, as it was when it was first written. Pope Benedict has called the Church to celebrate a Year of Faith beginning next month on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Year of Faith is not just another side-event in the life of the Church. Pope Benedict has rightly identified the need for renewal in the faith as truly urgent in our times. It is a challenge for the Church in a special way in those countries, like our own, which have a rich Christian tradition, but have become tired in recent decades.
How do the readings of this morning’s Mass help us to face this challenge? The first thing that the reading from Ephesians recalls for us is that we should never lose confidence. The Church in our time has undergone many challenges and difficulties. Efforts at reform and renewal have not always taken the roots in people’s lives that we might perhaps have hoped for. This is often because we have mistaken notions about what renewal and reform mean in the Church.
Certainly the Church needs to examine its structures and the way in which it witnesses in our world. But reform will never be just about reform of structures. Renewal involves above all an opening of our hearts to the power of the Spirit who will allow us to grow strong in the depths of our Christian existence. Where the life of faith is marked by tiredness, the message of Jesus must be proclaimed. The message of Jesus must be proclaimed in its integrity and with confidence. The Gospel must be preached in its integrity and with full confidence even if its message does not seem to be received by those to whom it is preached. This is the challenge of New Evangelization. We should never loose confidence.
The Spirit which today has been poured out on these young people must become active in their hearts and in all our hearts, challenging us to confront the realities of our life with the teaching and the person of Jesus Christ. It is in knowing Jesus that we will fully come to know ourselves, to know what the meaning of our life is and why we are here in this life and how we should direct our lives in his love.
Faith is not a formula or an ideology nor a list of rules and norms or simple aesthetics. It is – as our reading reminded us so beautifully - about that love of God whose breadth and length, height and depth go beyond human knowledge and yet alone can fill us with the “utter fullness of God himself”.
Renewal in our faith is not simply an intellectual exercise. It is about entering into a relationship with Jesus and making our lives like that of Jesus himself. That is the meaning also of the Gospel reading we have heard. The story of the encounter between Jesus and the leader of the local Synagogue, who was a Pharisee, leads to the message that with an encounter with Jesus we must change the way we think and live.
That change involves authenticity and integrity in our choices and decisions. The tradition of the Pharisees maintained that it would only be possible to heal on the Sabbath when a life was really in danger. Yet hypocritically it claimed that “life” could mean that of an ox or another animal, while healing someone who was not in absolute danger would not be permitted. His hearers somehow realise the correctness of the logic of Jesus. They remain silent; they do not even attempt to enter into argument with him. In our life of faith there is no point in trying to bargain with Jesus or compromise on the basis of our logic. The logic of Jesus changes us and the way we live.
Following Jesus requires that we change attitude. Jesus notices how those who are invited to the meal in the house of the Pharisee rush to get the places of honour and he advices them – at first seemingly on the basis of a practical principle – to be more cautious, lest they be humiliated and embarrassed at having to give their place to someone more important than they are and move down a notch.
But the teaching is not just about practical prudence and good table manners. Jesus turns this example into a principle of Christian life, that those who exalt themselves will be humbled. In many ways the key word here is neither “exalt” nor “humble”, but “themselves”. If we attempt to build our lives and our hopes alone, on what we feel we can achieve on our own talents, then we are dealing with empty self-exaltation and we will inevitably end up frustrated and humiliated. Placing our trust alone on our own talents, we will inevitably end up, not having attained what we wished to achieve, but with a fundamental emptiness and meaninglessness. It is only when we recognise that life is gift that we allow the power of the Spirit to work and act in us and become Christ-like. It is that power of the Spirit which can lead us to discover fully who we are; it is that power of the Spirit which also can raise us up when we fail and fall and permit us to begin once again, regaining lost confidence.
Humbling ourselves is not about humiliating ourselves. It is about having that mind within us which was that of Christ Jesus. He showed us that clinging to external honours was not the way of God. Our God is one who gives himself, so that we can have life. In this Eucharist we re-enact his sacrificial and redemptive love and are embraced in his mystery.
The liturgy is the place where we are fully taken up into that mystery as Jesus comes to dwell within us. I congratulate the priests and the members of this community for their attention to that dimension of mystery and prayerfulness with which you celebrate the Eucharist. In particular I urge you to develop a sense of silence and of mystical prayer in a world where there is so much hectic and noise, which can so easily distract us from what God is saying to us and to what he is calling each of us in our daily life.
Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council stressed the centrality of the call to holiness for each and every Christian. True reform of the Church will come through that search for holiness through responding to the call of the Spirit. My prayer is that those who were today confirmed will continue to play an important part in this community and develop their faith in the years to come to be authentic witnesses to Jesus in the world of the future.