Saturday, April 27, 2013


Today, I administered the sacrament of confirmation to students from St. Anthony's School and our parish religious education program.

I had a great idea for a confirmation homily that you’d never forget! I thought I would ride up the aisle on my new electric bike! But after a minute or two, I decided that would probably make this my last confirmation homily, since I don’t think Archbishop Miller would give me permission for any more confirmations…Too bad, though: it would have helped you to remember the homily!

Mr. Maledy still remembers a homily at a school Mass when the priest let loose a wind-up flying bird. It gave a great performance as the Holy Spirit before it hit one of the grade sevens in the back of the head!

But let’s go back to my new bike. It’s not exactly new: a very clever friend built it for me from spare parts in his workshop. He’d heard that the West Van hills were scaring me off my bike, and he thought I needed some help.

It’s not exactly an old man’s bike—you still have to pedal. But when the pedaling gets too tough, you touch a lever and the electric motor helps you get to the top.

Confirmation is a bit like that. Christian life takes effort, even after the sacrament you’re about to receive. You still need to follow the rules of the road, keep your eyes open, and make good decisions. But when the going gets rough, when the decisions get hard, the Holy Spirit is there to help you in new ways, with gifts that supply the extra strength you need.

Sometimes you’ll recognize the Holy Spirit at work, other times He will be unnoticeable, working in the background sending you signs through the people and events in your life.

One confirmand was kind enough to share with me the beautiful letter he received from his sponsor. She can’t be here today, and for a very good reason: she is staying at an Abbey in the United States so she can find out whether God wants her to become a nun—to live as a Sister in that monastery.

Although we don’t always recognize the Holy Spirit’s work at the time, she says “I can look back through the last few years and see how Understanding and Right Judgment were really important when I was at college and university, because they helped me discern Christian life and values at a time when I was surrounded by very anti-Christian attitudes.” And “it took a lot of fortitude to leave my job and family for this live-in at the Abbey where I am now!”

At the same time, sometimes others can see the Spirit working in us. The wise sponsor wrote to her young friend that he might be surprised by how many ‘hidden’ Catholics and other Christians he’ll meet in our hostile world—“once they sense Christ’s presence in you through your words and actions.”

Her advice is for all of us: “so always make sure that your actions reflect who you are confirmed to be, because you never know who will be inspired by the Holy Spirit’s movement in your life.”

Because—let’s face it—people who walk the talk are attractive to others. Others will notice if the gifts of the Spirit are really alive in you.

Dear young friends, your parents have given you the gift of a Christian upbringing. You can receive that gift like the bike I kept in the garage, gathering dust. You can use that gift like a used my old bike, and take it for a spin once or twice a year, groaning on the hills and struggling to get across the bridge.

Or you can receive the gifts of the Spirit and use them every day, turning to God especially when you need His strength the most.

This sponsor’s letter closes with a beautiful prayer that quotes from the new translation of the Mass: “May the Holy Spirit come upon you like the dewfall—silent and invisible, but able to constantly flood your life with guidance and love.”

Those gentle words express half of my prayer for you. I hope we’ll hear the words of the second half of my prayer at Communion time, if the choir sings the official anthem of World Youth Day 2008. The refrain to that magnificent hymn is “Receive the Power, from the Holy Spirit! Receive the Power to be a light unto the world!”

Today, God offer you so much: a dewfall and a downpour. A spiritual kickstart, and a divine explosion. Gifts for everyday, and gifts for times of crisis and confusion.

Each and every one of you will receive the same outpouring of the Spirit this morning. How it will shape and change the rest of your lives is up to you.

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