Fr Abbot Brendan OSB
Most of you sitting up front are not old enough to remember Terry Waite, but those sitting further back probably do. He was frequently in the news in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. He worked as special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury and negotiated the release of hostages in the Middle-East. In 1987, while conducting hostage negotiations, he was kidnapped and held for 1,763 days, nearly 5 years. For 4 of those 5 years he was in solitary confinement and during that time he was frequently blindfolded, beaten, and subjected to mock executions. He lived much of the time chained to a radiator, suffered desperately from asthma, and was transported in a giant refrigerator as his captors moved him about.
After his release, he wrote two best-selling books recounting his experiences and gave countless interviews. He summed up his experience again and again in a single phrase. “At the end of the day, love and compassion will win”. He is just one of many people who having suffered greatly discovered this truth.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments, said Jesus. Those commandments are summed up as love of God and neighbour. It can sound all too easy to love, unless you hear it in a context where it has cost someone dearly. And yet Jesus tells us that this is how the world will know that we are his disciples. Our candidates for Confirmation, this morning, are completing their baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit and becoming his disciples. The point I want to make to you, is that this is a serious business. To really love is not an easy thing. It demands huge sacrifices from the one who loves. It demands patience, it demands wisdom too and it demands mercy and forgiveness.
Sometime in the past, water was poured over you and the words “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” were spoken. Most likely, you have no recollection of that day because you were too young. Nevertheless, some very powerful things happened on the day of your baptism. You were anointed with the Chrism of salvation as a member of Christ, Priest, Prophet and King. If you watched the coronation of King Charles recently you would have seen that he was anointed king with the oil of Chrism too. You were also clothed with a white garment at your baptism as a new creation in Christ and you were given a lighted candle, lit from the paschal candle, which burns here behind me. You were told to keep this flame of faith alive in your heart. Finally, the priest touched your ears and mouth so that you might proclaim your faith.
So here you are today, before the altar of God to complete your baptism and be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands and anointing once more with the oil of Chrism.
When Jesus gave the Spirit to the apostles, he breathed upon them. He breathed into them his own breath of life, his “spirit’ and the Church was born. For the Church is all of those people into whom the Risen Jesus has breathed the breath of his own risen life.
This is the good news we carry. If this is our newfound dignity as human beings, then how should we treat each other? How can it be possible for us who claim to be Christian not to be moved to compassion when we see a brother or sister in need? We are not left as orphans; we are those who love the Lord and are loved by him.
This is what it means to be a Christian and this, my young friends, is the challenge placed before you today. “At the end of the day, love and compassion will win”.