Confirmation Mass on Pentecost Sunday: May 15, 2016: Archbishop O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan O’Brien

Pentecost Sunday – Confirmation

St. Mary’s Cathedral

May 15, 2016


Before we continue with our celebration, I would like to speak to the young people who are going to be confirmed and, indeed, to all of you – parents, sponsors, relatives, friends, and parishioners – who are here today to show your love and support for them on this happy occasion.


To receive the sacrament of confirmation during the Easter season is special, because we are able to make a link between the impact that the Holy Spirit had on Jesus’s disciples and what we can expect when we receive the strengthening in the Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.  At Easter, we celebrated how Jesus rose from the dead and how, as the glorified Lord, he appeared to his disciples.  Sometimes, they did not recognize him right away; it was Jesus, but he had been transformed, glorified.


Last Sunday, on the feast of the Ascension, we celebrated the ending of these appearances to the disciples.  The feast of the Ascension celebrates how the divine and human nature of Jesus enters into the mystery of God – how the risen Jesus is now together with the Father and shares the place and dignity of the Father.  Jesus is no longer in one particular place in the world as he was before the ascension.  But now, because he is with the Father, he is present and accessible to all throughout history and in every place.


Finally, today, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples.  The gospel today is taken from Jesus’s words at the Last Supper (John 14).  He knows that he is to die; he is giving his disciples some last instructions.  He encourages them to keep his commandment of love.  The love that Jesus has in mind is not just that we love those who love us, but that we offer our love and concern for others, even when that is not welcomed or returned.  It is the love that went so far as to die for us on the cross.  If we do this, Jesus says that He and the Father will be with us; they will make their home with us.


To love as Jesus has loved us is no easy task, but, as you heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not expect us to do this on our own.  He promises the disciples and us someone to help us – an Advocate, a supporter – someone to stand by us in our need.  The Advocate that Jesus will ask the Father to send us is the Holy Spirit.  The role of the Holy Spirit is to help us live Jesus’s commandment of love and to give us the strength and wisdom that the Church and every one of us needs if we are to be faithful to our mission to be Jesus’s witnesses:  to carry on the work that he began and to establish God’s Kingdom in the world – a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace.


In the first reading today, we have an account, from the Acts of the Apostles, of the giving of the Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.  The language of the Acts of the Apostles suggests that something really significant is taking place – powerful wind, which is a sign of the Spirit; tongues of fire, which remind us of the Old Testament presence of God, such as the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses, and the pillar of fire which accompanied the Jews on their wanderings through the desert.



But the most extraordinary thing is the remarkable effect that this experience of the Spirit’s presence had on the disciples.  We see how the Spirit changed these sometimes slow to understand, fearful, timid disciples into witnesses who proclaimed the message of Jesus with great zeal and enthusiasm.  We see that they were given a power to communicate the Good News.  The pilgrims who were in Jerusalem for a Jewish feast, who came from different places and spoke different languages, were able to hear and understand the message.  The story from the Book of Genesis about the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) is being reversed.  There is a movement away from disharmony and incomprehension caused by the multiplicity of languages – a thrust towards unity has begun.


The gift of the Spirit was not just something Jesus gave the first disciples; the gift of the Spirit was not just something that we needed to get the Church started.  The Church today can only fulfill its mission if it has the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide it, and if the Holy Spirit is present in the lives of each of its members, you and me.


Already, at Baptism, we have been introduced to life in the Spirit.  Today, you young people will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, which will further strengthen you in the Spirit to be witnesses to Jesus, and to use your gifts, as the Second Reading mentions, to advance the mission of the Church.


In particular, during this Jubilee of Mercy, Jesus wants us to be ambassadors of God’s mercy.  We do this when we practise the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  They involve things like providing food and clothes to those who cannot afford them; visiting the sick and people confined to their homes; helping refugees; working for peace.  But, besides practising social justice and community service, there are other things we can do to be ‘merciful like the Father’.


We can make life easier for one another by being welcoming – bringing others into our circle of friends, listening to someone who is having a difficult time, being ready to forgive those who may have hurt us.  We do not just keep the faith we have received.  We are meant to pass it on – to proclaim it – not necessarily only in words, but by what we do.  By our actions, we show what we consider to be important.


These may seem like small things to do, but, if we all do them, then we are being ‘merciful like the Father’, and we may lead others to come to know and love Christ.  But we need the help of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in order to stick to this mission.


So, in a few moments, we will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation: Renewal of Baptismal Promises, Laying on of Hands, Anointing with Chrism, Gesture, Eucharist.


The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.