In his homily for Pentecost, Year A, Father Hanly talks to the young people who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and be sent out into the world to proclaim the Good News.
First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Second Reading: First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20:19-23
After the Presentation of Candidates:
Good morning. Are you all ready? This service could go on forever, you know, but I’ve found a way of making it just a little shorter. But I think you have to pay closer attention, because every word is very important, okay? And I’ve stolen it.
This is from a lovely man who is called Jean Vanier. He is the founder of a whole series of homes for retarded adults. And in himself acting in this way has created a whole new way of understanding the beauty, the integrity, the love and the insights of these men whose average age mentally might be anywhere from three to eight to ten years old. And here is the address that he gives them on Pentecost Sunday:
“My brothers and sisters, it was ten days after the departure of Jesus, when he returned to his Father, that Mary and the apostles are all together in prayer in an upper room while they await the promise of Jesus who said he would send the Holy Spirit, when suddenly they hear a noise like a violent wind and tongues as of fire appear to them which rest on each and every one of them. Wind and fire, the sign of God’s presence. And they are all filled with the Holy Spirit. And a new strength arises up within their hearts and they begin to proclaim in various languages ‘Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Saviour of the world.’ And the church of Jesus is suddenly born and is revealed to the whole world.
“Now the apostles, filled with this new fire, go off through the whole world to speak of Jesus and of his Good News everywhere. They baptise all those who believe in him, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And the family of God, the church, begins, and grows in number even to this present day.”
And that’s what you have come to do: to make it grow a little bit further, in this wonderful place called Hong Kong, in this parish of St Margaret’s, and to become part of something that began over two thousand years ago in a little room in Jerusalem, when the Blessed Mother and the apostles opened their hearts, opened their minds and, with a deep yearning, embraced the coming of the Spirit.
I think you already know that the next step that we are going to do is to allow you to do something that sponsors many, many years ago, did for you. And that was when you became Catholics when you were baptised as little babies, you were carried in and everybody was full of joy, your parents and friends, and they brought you here and you were brought in to the body of the Catholic Church.
And they made all kinds of promises for you, but you didn’t know them because you were too young. But today, at the beginning of our confirmation for all of you, you are going to take those promises that were offered many, many years ago by your godparents, and you’re going to speak for yourself and make them your very own.
(Renewal of Baptismal Promises)
Laying on of Hands
In the upper room, and forever after, when the apostles brought new members, not into the church, which they did, of course, for the pouring of water, but you have already received that, but, as they gathered two by two in front of the apostles, they were sent — the word to remember is sent.
And where were they sent?
They were sent to the whole world.
And what were they sent to do?
To bear witness to the love of God. And the Messiah had come and the world had been changed and the whole world has become, under God, one family. And that was the message.
How did they do it?
They did it in the traditional ways that the Hebrews have done it for two thousand / four thousand years. You lay your hands upon those who are sent, in silence. And we pray in silence for each and every one of you.
(Laying on of Hands)
And now we have the anointing. As you know, anointing has two very important meanings. The first one is your dignity as human beings and children of God. It is a blessed perfume and a sign that you offer yourselves, respecting that dignity that is given to you by God, you give yourselves to be sent. The second thing is to be sent.
You are sent and sealed by the Holy Spirit that you, through your words and deeds and your relationships and everything in your life, you bear witness to the love of God in this world, to the caring and reaching out to the needy and those who are not as blessed as you are.
Forgiveness: to be there for people in their sorrows and needs.
In a word, to be like Jesus, who never turned anyone away and only brought goodness and kindness to each person he touched.
And so now we will anoint you. We will send you into that world, not as children but as adults, young men and women, who will take with you the presence of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus and the presence of God Himself.
(The Anointing follows)