Last Updated:

Extracts from a homily given on 1st July 2023 at Westminster Cathedral for the Mass celebrating the confirmations of 140 candidates from St Michael & St Martin Parish, Hounslow.

Dear Candidates, this is an amazing building, isn’t it? I once brought an American friend to come and see the Cathedral. She was a very spiritual person.

Before we walked in, I thought I’d better prepare her. I told her she’d notice that the mosaics & stone extend only half way up the walls. Have you noticed that yourselves? If you look up into the domes, you can still see the bricks.

We walked in; she looked up; and, with a beautiful smile, she said, 'You know, I prefer it this way – because it’s like us, unfinished!'  'What a wonderful thought,' I said to myself. And I remember it every time I walk in here: 'It’s like us, unfinished!'

Cathedrals are supposed to make us think. For example, this is a temple, if you think about it - because a temple is where we worship God. But we call it a Cathedral. It’s called the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood. It’s a beautiful name, isn’t it? And we’re reminded of it every time we look up at the huge crucifix. It must be one of the biggest you’ve ever seen!

There you can clearly see the Precious Blood flowing from Jesus’s side. Again, it’s supposed to make us think. It’s a graphic reminder that he let his blood be poured out for us. He died not just for people in general: he died for you; he died for me.

But, of course, he knew he was going to rise again. 'Destroy this temple; and in three days I will raise it up,' he said. And St John tells us the Temple he was referring to was his own body. St Paul tells us we are temples too. Do you remember how Paul tells us we are ‘Temples of the Holy Spirit’?

You became a temple of the Holy Spirit the day you were baptised. But today, in Confirmation, you receive the Holy Spirit in a much fuller way.

You will be confirmed in the Spirit: he will be within you forever.

That doesn’t mean you’re a perfect temple, though! None of us is perfect, even when we have the Holy Spirit within us. We’re a 'work in progress', as they say. In fact, it’s precisely because we’re not perfect that we need the Spirit. He comes to make his home in us.

That’s a phrase that Jesus liked to use too. Do you remember how he once said, 'Make your home in me as I make mine in you'? We hear him say today, 'Zacchaeus, come down. I want to stay at your house'. Of course, we’re in Jesus’s house here in this Cathedral; we’re in his temple. Over there, on your left, Jesus has made his home in the tabernacle. Again, it’s supposed to make us think. Jesus makes his home in this building because he wants to make his home in us.

You’ll be familiar with the tabernacle in your home parish of St Michael & St Martin. He’s there too, waiting for you. Now that you’re confirmed, I want you to go and visit him there often. Go and tell him everything you want to say to him: everything you’re grateful for; everything you want to do; and everything you’re worried about. Ask him to send you the Holy Spirit in a deeper way every day. And you’ll be surprised how much closer you feel to him.

When you receive the holy oil of Chrism on your forehead it’s then that you receive power; you receive the power of the Spirit; you receive the power of the Spirit to witness; you’re sealed with the power of the Spirit to witness.

You may feel too young to witness! But Pope Francis wants you to know that Jesus needs you to be witnesses to your peers. He likes to tell you, 'You’re not the future of the Church; you’re its present! You’re not a meanwhile; you’re a now!' Meaning Jesus needs you now - to be his witnesses!

And, when you fail to be a witness - as fail you will -  when you find yourself lacking courage, lacking faith, when you sin, then be sure to return to the Lord in prayer. Because - remember - he understands: you’re work in progress; like this Cathedral, you’re unfinished! And the Spirit waits to transform you!