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Bishop's Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

December 3, 2023

[St. Stephen Church, Honolulu (Confirmation & First Communion; 90th Anniversary of the Parish)]

It is amazing all the preparation that has gone into this special day of your Confirmation and First Holy Communion!  You have been learning about the Holy Spirit you will receive in a special way in the sacrament of Confirmation, and about Jesus, whom you will receive in a special way in Holy Communion.  You have rehearsed how you are to walk in procession and how to receive these sacraments.  You have prepared the special clothes you wear to indicate how special this celebration is.  Your parents and others have prepared celebrations at home or at a favorite restaurant.  But one thing you have to be very careful about is that you do not become so distracted by all these preparations – important as they are – that you miss the reality of these sacraments.

In a special way, God the Holy Spirit is going to kiss you on your forehead when you are anointed with Chrism.  He is going to mark you and seal you forever as someone God loves and as someone God calls to the mission of proclaiming God’s love to others.  If you are aware, awake and alert to this gift of the Holy Spirit, you will be amazed at all that God allows you to do.  You may be very shy, but the Holy Spirit can still use you to show God’s love to others.  You may not think you are the smartest person in the world, but the Holy Spirit can give you a wisdom that others will marvel at.  You may sometimes feel like you do not know what to do in a difficult situation, but the Holy Spirit can guide you and enlighten you.  But you must be aware of his continued presence with you.  It would be very easy today – and every day – to be so distracted by your clothes, what you are to say and when, or even by the parties and gifts that will follow this ceremony, that you can easily miss this Person who is coming to live in you in a special way today.

When you come to Holy Communion for the first time (or even the thousand-and-first time!), you may be distracted by when you should bow, how to hold your hands, when to say “Amen,” or how you are going to look in your photos, that you can easily miss the Person who is coming to you today.  It is Jesus himself; the same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, who taught amazing things, healed the sick, cast out demons, died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He is the living Bread come down from heaven, and he wants to enter into you to live in you.  But you have to be attentive and alert to his coming and be aware that this is not just a ritual, but your own encounter with the risen Lord Jesus, who loves you and gave his life for you.

Jesus wants to be in you so that through you he can be present everywhere you go.  He wants to be in your home and your family, and once he is in you, he can be in your home in a very special way.  He wants to be at your school, on your sports team, in your dance class, or wherever you go.  Because Jesus is physically united to you in the most holy and intimate Communion, he is able to go far beyond this church to be wherever you go, so that through you, he can teach, heal, and show his great love for all.

We adults who received the sacrament of Confirmation so long ago that we can barely remember it, can also be asleep and inattentive to the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  Your Confirmation can remind us all that God has given us this gift of his Holy Spirit, so that we can be alert and awake to his presence and his power working in and among us.

We who received our First Communion ages and ages ago, can also be distracted by so many things that we are not attentive and alert to the fact that it is the person of Jesus, our Savior and Lord, whom we encounter in Holy Communion, and that he wants to be present, through us, in every place we go.

Yes, just as the servants can easily be distracted and miss the arrival of the master of the house, so can we.  But during this Advent season we are reminded to stay awake, alert, and ready to receive the most wonderful gift we can possibly be given, the gift of God-with-us.