Homily by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
Ibraġ Parish Church
19th May 2018
I have just pronounced you grown-ups as Christians. You have to wait in order to be able to drive a car and I suggest you do that, and you have to wait to do so many other things in life, but the Church today is asking you to do something very important in front of all the community, your sponsors and your parents. You are being asked to confirm your faith in Jesus as grown-ups, knowing what you are doing and wanting to do it.
So at the end of this very long homily, I am going to ask you a number of questions and you are going to repeat the answers your parents and your godparents told the priest when you were babies and you were brought to be baptised. Today you are going to answer the questions whether you renounce Satan and whether you want to believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. So we hope that you get the answers right but it is not a test, it is not an exam. This is an act of love because it is an act of faith.
When I tell you: ‘Do you believe in God the Father? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, God the Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?’ And you say: ‘I believe’ (‘jiena nemmen’ in Maltese) That is, I want to dedicate myself to be a servant of love. Why? Because you are saying before all this community that you believe in God who is love.
Now you are going to receive the Holy Spirit. He is not coming in you and in your soul in a spectacular way. There is not going to be the wind or the tongues of fire that happened 2,000 years ago at Pentecost but it is the same Holy Spirit that will come into your heart and into your souls to confirm you and to strengthen you. When Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, he gave us a description of who the Holy Spirit is by telling us what he does. He said that he was going to send us an advocate. An advocate is someone you go to when in deep trouble and when you’re in really deep trouble, you say: ‘I need somebody to defend me’ or ‘I need somebody to advise me. I need somebody who can actually be with me so that I feel my rights are being well protected’.
The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray because we need to learn how to pray.
Now another word in Greek for ‘advocate’ is ‘paraclete’, paracletus, that is why we call the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, not the paralytic but the Paraclete. And paracletos is advocatus, one is in Greek one is in Latin. It means that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus who is going to defend you, to counsel you, to protect you, not only when you are in trouble but through life as a Christian. And life as a Christian can be challenging at times.
Something else the Lord told us about the Holy Spirit that his name is also the comforter, somebody who comforts you. The Holy Spirit comes into your heart and into your soul as the comfort of the Lord. So when in deep distress, when you are depressed, when you are afraid, when you are angry, when you are out of control, when you are tempted, you pray to the Holy Spirit, the comforter. The Holy Spirit will strengthen you; in fear he will give you hope, in darkness he will be your light. This is the gift you are going to receive today.
The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray because we need to learn how to pray. At times we pray for silly things, things that are going to harm us, and the Lord, in his goodness, gives us the deaf ear. The Lord has two ears; I mean he is a spirit, he has an ear that hears the cry of the faithful for justice, for freedom, and that ear is always open. But he has a deaf ear for prayers that would harm us if we have to get what we are asking for and so he pretends that he is not listening. And we complain, ‘Why don’t you want us to win the lottery? Why? Why didn’t I pass the exam without studying?’ These are miracles we ask of the Lord. But the Lord is not somebody who would grant us a prayer just for fun. He is a Father, a just and holy Father and so he would give you bread even if we ask for a stone. He will give you good food even if you ask for poison but he will never give you poison. He will never give you a stone to eat even if you ask him. And that is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray according to the will of the Father that is to pray for things that are truly beneficial to each and every one of us.
The Lord is not somebody who would grant us a prayer just for fun.
The Holy Spirit brings so many gifts, we call the gifts a sevenfold gift because it is a perfect gift. The number seven is the number of perfection in the Bible and so the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit mean the perfection of the gift of the spirit that he is so willing to give us and to give you today. I would like to thank the sponsors for taking the responsibility to take care of you as Christian adults. They have to pray for you, they have to support you, they have to lead you through a good example.
A few last words of encouragement. First of all, try to continue in Christian formation. You may think that now receiving Confirmation, you know it all, congratulations! But you don’t know it all, nobody knows it all. We all need to go on forming ourselves in the Christian life, knowing about not only Jesus and the saints but also knowing how to distinguish between good and evil and how to choose good and not to choose evil. We need to learn that because of our passions, our instincts and the battle against us. We also have an instinct which is going to be strengthened by the spirit today which is good conscience and even the worst personal life, who are we to judge? But we all always have that little flame of goodness in us that leads us to the wisdom of goodness and truth.
Sunday mass is our weekly meeting with our friend Jesus.
And my prayer for you is that you become as you grow up, champions of what is good, that you shun evil with dignity but also with a moral strength that you grow up with a backbone, no men or women of straw and that is also a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Another suggestion is that you should make it a point to meet Jesus at least once a week in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Sunday mass is our weekly meeting with our friend Jesus. It’s not for old people or for babies; it’s for adults. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in the Sunday Eucharist, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus but also we renew our commitment to be an influence for the good in society and in the world. So if you want to be this leaven, if we want to be this life in the world, you need training, we need weekly strengthening by the Lord. When we realise that we are weak and we have sinned, we go to confession. It’s not the end of the world but we need Jesus, we need to receive him in the Eucharist, we need to ask forgiveness for our sins and where can we do that if not in the family of believers, that is the Church.
While I bless you and your family, I hope that you have a wonderful future strengthened by the spirit that you are going to receive today. And I have a little present for you. This is what I am introducing wherever I give Confirmation to young people. It is that, as in so many other countries, I will give you a name that you adopt at Confirmation. Your parents chose you wonderful names, I am going to listen to so many wonderful names as you come and present yourselves, but I am going to give you a name that you will adopt at Confirmation. It’s not about the ID or passports, it is something that will be registered as a Church name. And I am going to name the boys ‘Francesco’ and the girls ‘Francesca’ in remembrance of Pope Francis. I hope that you keep this remembrance not only of the Pope but of great saints that brought peace and goodness and goodwill in the world. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta4
1st Reading: Acts 2, 1-11
Psalm: 103 (104)
2nd Reading: Gal 5, 16-25
Gospel: Jn 15, 26-27; 16, 12-15