Prepared Homily: Mass for Young Adults
Last Sunday in Rome we concluded, together with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, at a Solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica the first of two gatherings of bishops from around the world called a Synod, each to be dedicated to the family.
The purpose of these two Synods on the Family is to provide us ample time to reflect, to pray and to open our hearts and minds to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we reaffirm the importance and significance of the family. Whatever we say about the family must be seen in the greater context of our relationship to God.
Today’s Gospel gives us Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the greatest of the commandments?” he tells us, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Friends, if you and I come together to reflect on who we are, on what is our relationship to others – to one another we have as our starting point what Jesus himself has told us and what the Word of God has spoken to us over millennia.
We read these Gospel texts over and over again because here we find the revelation of Jesus, the Word of God, coming into our world to help us understand better who we are and that we do have a relationship, a unique and wonderful relationship to God, and a unique and wonderful relationship to one another.
This message – the Word of God – tells us that God’s kingdom – God’s love is already being made present in our world that we can experience the beginning of that kingdom and that it is our task to help manifest that love of God and love of neighbor.
But all of this starts with our own renewal of our faith in such a way that we energize our own confidence in what we believe and then make an effort to actually share it. You and I are called to be not only disciples but missionary disciples, people willing to share our faith.
Our task begins with each of us taking it upon ourselves to renew once again our understanding of the faith and our appropriation of it in a way that embraces the Gospel message and its application today. The Gospel offers humanity a different way of seeing life and the world around us. We bring a fuller vision of life than that offered by an individualistic, secular society that lives as if God did not exist. To see with the eyes of faith.
Once when standing at the back of Church following Mass as I greeted parishioners, I was approached a young family, mother, father and several children. The youngest, who looked to me to be about four or five, said to me, “Why do you call us brothers and sisters, you’re not my brother?”
I told him that there is a very real sense in which we are brothers and sisters because we all have God as our Father. We are all members of God’s family. The youngster looked back at his mother for confirmation of this statement. When she nodded affirmatively, he turned back to me and said, “I didn’t know that! That’s cool!”
In the Sermon on the Mount presented in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear of a new way of life and how it involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit. Here we learn of the call to be salt of the earth and a light set on a lamp stand. Later in that same Gospel, we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ. Jesus’ disciples are challenged to envision a world where not only the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the stranger is welcomed and the naked are clothed, but also most amazingly sins are forgiven and eternal life is pledged.
Every Sunday at Mass, we recite the words of the Nicene Creed. Each of us makes a personal and public commitment of faith, in the presence of our neighbors. We say, “I believe” to a rather long list of demanding propositions. “I believe . . . ” in one God who is three divine persons; in a fatherly God who relates to me as his child; in a God who became man; in a God who continues to act through the Church; in a God who will raise me, body and soul, from the dead.
When we stop to think about any one of these propositions, we can identify with the man in the Gospel who “cried out” to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). For we know, as that man knew, that we all need help. The truths of our faith are demanding. They are more than words, more than boxes we must check so that we can call ourselves Catholic. They are living truths that are meant to make a difference in our lives.
The core of evangelization is the Kerygma, the initial proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Prop. 9). On the day of Pentecost, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter immediately and fearlessly went out and gave personal testimony of this Good News of salvation in the Risen Christ. “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses . . . God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified . . . Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:32-38)
Pope Francis who has captured the imaginations and hearts of people all around the world tells us the message is very simple. God loves each of us. We must embrace one another in that love and see in each other, not only the love of God but the image – the face – of God.
In this, Pope Francis urges us, “there are no borders, no limits… Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love” (WYD Homily, July 28, 2013).
A deepened appreciation for our faith should lead us to a new level of confidence in its truth. The words of the Gospel are the words of everlasting life. The teaching of the Church is God’s word applied to our day. We need to be confident that we stand in the truth so that we are not shaken by every challenge to the Gospel message.
So much of what we learn from Christ is brushed aside today in our secular world. This is culture that challenges things as basic as marriage, family, an objective right and wrong, a moral law, obligations to one another, a common good.
Our faith must be strong enough so that we are confident in the truth – to stand in the truth. Out of our knowledge of the faith and our confidence in it, we should be prepared to share it with others. This can take place in many ways. How do we come to know and encounter Jesus today? Jesus’ challenge: “You will be my witnesses.”
What are some of the qualities required for the missionary disciple – for the follower of Jesus – who wants to bear witness to the joy of the Gospel? Many can be identified, but four stand out: boldness or courage, connectedness to Church, a sense of urgency, and joy.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the word that describes the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.” Peter boldly stands up and preaches the Good News of the Resurrection. Paul boldly announces the Word in frenetic movement around the world. Today, the New Evangelization must show a similar boldness born of confidence in Christ. We cannot be lukewarm, but must be on fire with the Spirit. Other examples abound: Saint Thomas More, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Miguel Pro, and the various martyrs and missionary saints.
The new evangelizers also need a connectedness with the one Church, her one Gospel and her pastoral presence. The authentication of our message of everlasting life depends on our communion with the Church and solidarity with her pastors. In this, you – the young adults of this archdiocese – can provide, and have already provided, an especially credible witness from your steadfast efforts at unity in the Body of Christ.
Another needed quality is a sense of urgency, as we see in Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth. The Gospel recounts how Mary set off in haste on a long and difficult journey. There is no time to be lost because the mission is so important.
Finally, when we look around and see the vast field waiting for us to sow seeds of new life, we must do so with a radiant smile. Our message should be one that inspires others with joy to follow us along the path to the kingdom of God.
We have every reason with both confidence and joy to announce the very simple but clear message at the heart of our faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.