My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We have a lot to pray for today, first of all, as we all know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has begun his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. So we want to accompany our Holy Father in prayer and we want to pray that his visit will give hope to all the Christian people living there and also promote mutual respect for all religions and peoples in the region. So let’s especially pray for that.
But let us also keep in our prayers, the victims and their families of the terrible tragedy in Isla Vista, UC Santa Barbara. May God be present with them in the difficult time. And may our prayers bring the end of violence in our communities. Give them your prayers too.
And it is Memorial Day weekend, so we pray also for all men and women in our armed forces who died fighting for freedom and peace and for their families. We also pray for all the men and women who are also serving for our country right now. May they also always feel the loving presence of our God.
And then, as we all know, today we have the joy of these men and women who are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, so we especially pray for you, for your sponsors, your families, and for the Cathedral parish.
The Sacrament of Confirmation, as we all know, is a wonderful Sacrament that will bring our brothers and sisters deeper into the reality of our Christian lives. In our Christian lives, we are walking every day with Jesus by our side. And we are always walking in the company of the Holy Spirit — who is given to us as a gift by God’s love.
He gives us this gift, first in Baptism, when the Spirit is poured into our hearts, making us children of God. We receive this gift again in Confirmation, when the Spirit comes to place a special “seal” on our hearts, consecrating us to God’s service of love.2
And I’m sure that you noticed, all of the readings of today’s Mass, that we just heard, are about this gift of the Holy Spirit. Our readings today are helping us to renew our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
It is a very important relationship in our Christian lives, my brothers and sisters.
Because we all need to really experience — that the Holy Spirit is real, that he is true and he is powerful. He is not just an “idea” or a feeling. The Holy Spirit is a Person. The third person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God.
That’s what Jesus is telling us today in our Gospel passage. He tells us that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate. The Spirit defends us and guides us and teaches us the true path for our lives.
Sometimes we need to reflect more on who we are — children of God, beloved sons and daughters of God. The value of our life and Christian vocation. And the Holy Spirit is the one who especially helps us to be aware of that.
So in the readings of today’s Mass, our first reading that we heard this morning gives us a picture of what the Sacrament of Confirmation looked like in the early Church.
As we heard, the apostles prayed and laid hands on the people that St. Philip had baptized — and these people received the gift of the Holy Spirit.3 Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
This is still happening in our times. The Church is still giving people this gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments. Today, in a special way, to all of you, my brothers and sisters receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. So there is a perfect continuity between what happened in the early Church and what is happening today, here, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and every time the Sacrament is celebrated.
When we received the gift of the Spirit, we receive the gift of living with living with God — we have the living God dwelling with us and in us.
Jesus says today:
Because I live … you will live …
I am in my Father and you are in me, and I in you.
We have a beautiful communion with God, through the gifts of his Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in our hearts. And through the Spirit, we live in the heart of God.
That’s why today is so special for all of you, because in a special way you have the grace today to be aware that God is with you and that you are walking every single second of your lives with God, as we all do.
St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
That means we have to make Jesus the center of our lives. We have to keep his commandments. As Jesus says in today’s passage of the Gospel:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments
And whoever has my commandments and observes them
Is the one who loves me
Living the commandments, we will find the joy and love that God wants for all of us. The joy of the people of Samaria as the Acts of the Apostles tells us in our first reading.
So let us always remember that in our Christian journey, we are never alone. God is always with us — he is always helping us. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading of today’s Mass.
What a beautiful day! We are more aware and reflect on the beauty of the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So this week, as we prepare for the solemnities of the Ascension and Pentecost in the next two weeks, let us ask for the grace to renew our devotion to the Holy Spirit. Let us ask him to renew his gifts within us. Let us ask him to inflame our hearts with love and to fill us with joy and peace.
May our Blessed Mother, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, help us to remain open to the Holy Spirit, so that we can grow in our Christian lives, and serve God and our brothers and sisters in joy and love.
1. Readings (Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A): Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps. 66:1-7, 16, 20; 1 Pet. 3:15-18; John 14:15-21.
2. Rom. 5:5; 8:16.
3. Catechism, 1288, 1313.