God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Pompeo Batoni, (1708-1787), 1779;  Basildon Park, The Iliffe Collection (The National Trust)

Fr Neil’s homily at the Confirmation Mass on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 24 July 2022

Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.¹

The Church has rightly held together two great paradoxical mysteries. The first is the apophatic tradition which refers to the unknowability of God. God in so many ways transcends our capacity as human beings to comprehend him and our words seem utterly inadequate to describe something of his nature. Yet that which is unknowable has made himself known to us in Christ. This second mystery is the Incarnation, the immanent presence of God, who has entered the created order for our salvation.

Christ in his incarnation has given us insight into the profound majesty of God. What is revealed, although but a glimpse, has occupied the greatest to the simplest of minds. God has willed to enter into the world that he might overcome that which alienates us from him. Not only that we might be reconciled to him but that we might obtain the dignity of being a child of God and be able to address him as ‘our Father’.

The term ‘our Father’ denotes a filial relationship within the deep intimacy of a family. What Christ is by nature, we are by adoption. He is Son of God and we are the children of God. It is through his divine passion that we can without fear call God ‘our Father’. As St Paul tells in our second lesson: “you, who were dead in trespasses…God made alive together with him…having cancelled the bond that stood against us with its legal demands,…nailing it to the cross.”² The wonder of this intimacy is that God relates to us as he does Christ his Son. When God looks upon us he sees in us what he sees in his Son.

September is coming up and school form-signing season will be upon us. It provides one example of just what parents are willing to do to achieve what they believe is the best for their children. They will attend mass faithfully for six months, even though they do not want to. They will move house or use a relative’s address to try and qualify their children for the school they want. They will lie, bully and do almost whatever is necessary for their children. I am both amazed and horrified in equal measure.

If God then is our heavenly Father the implications are profound and surely changes everything! Indeed Christ goes on to use this very image of what a father would do for his children to speak about how we should have confidence in prayer as we speak to God. He asks: “What father, if his son asked for a fish, will instead give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”³

How apposite is that given Tess’s confirmation today? But why the Holy Spirit? Surely it is because he is the creative force that brings all things into existence and transforms the renewing of Creation. It is God the Holy Spirit that resides in the heart of all believers and makes Christ present to the souls of the faithful through the sacraments of the Church to the glory of God the Father. It is as children of God that we can acknowledge with confidence both the immanence and yet transcendence of God as we say “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

It can only be the children of God who can pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” After all, that is the very last thing that so many in the world want to happen. Many do not want God’s will, but their own disordered, dysfunctional, morally corrupted desires to be their present reality. God is related to by so many — including large numbers of Catholics — as some ogre and tyrant whom you either placate, ignore or rebel against.

How on earth did we get here? It is the reactions that one might expect of a spoilt child having a temper tantrum at a parent who insists on sometimes saying no for the sake of that child’s own safety and well being.

Today’s gospel shows that from the very beginning of the existence of the Church, God is a loving heavenly Father: and only as children of God can we — with wonderful assurance — seek, knock and find the very presence and gifts of God that he longs to give us.

¹ Luke 11:9
² Colossians 2:13–14
³ Luke 11:11–13

defining or knowing God through negative statements.

The Orthodox tradition of apophatic, or negative, theology holds that none of our concepts can properly be affirmed of God, who transcends all human concepts.


present as a natural and permanent part of something.


presence or dwelling in or within a person or thing.


The attribute of being above and independent of the universe.