During the opening Mass for World Youth Day on Tuesday, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia reminded the youth in his homily, to be open to the Holy Spirit and willing to “take the next step” to follow Christ.
The prelate opened the homily by welcoming the excited, young pilgrims, but especially those suffering and in need of Christ’s healing grace.
“I begin by welcoming and encouraging anyone, anywhere who regards himself or herself as lost, in deep distress, with hope diminished or even exhausted.”
“Young or old, woman or man, Christ is still calling those who are suffering to come to him for healing, as he has for two thousand years. The causes of the wounds are quite secondary, whether they be drugs or alcohol, family breakups, the lusts of the flesh, loneliness or a death. Perhaps even the emptiness of success.”
He continued by emphasizing the importance of reaching out to those who do not turn to Christ in times of need. “Christ’s call is to all who are suffering, not just to Catholics or other Christians, but especially to those without religion. Christ is calling you home; to love, healing and community,” he said.
Cardinal Pell then reflected on the Mass’ readings saying that all members of the faithful must believe in the power of God to convert the hearts of people in the world today.
The Holy Spirit can move us from evil to good
“Secular wisdom claims that leopards do not change their spots, but we Christians believe in the power of the Spirit to convert and change persons away from evil to good; from fear and uncertainty to faith and hope.”
He explained that this is heartening “because we know the power of God’s forgiveness, the capacity of Christ and the Catholic tradition to cause new life to flourish even in unlikely circumstances.”
He also encouraged the faithful to be willing to grow in holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Human motivation is complex and mysterious, because sometimes very strong Catholics, and other strong Christians, can be prayerful and regularly good, but also very determined not to take even one further step. On the other hand, some followers of Christ can be much less zealous and faithful, but open to development, to change for the better because they realize their unworthiness and their ignorance. Where do you stand?”
“Whatever our situation we must pray for an openness of heart, for a willingness to take the next step, even if we are fearful of venturing too much further. If we take God’s hand, He will do the rest. Trust is the key. God will not fail us.”
The cardinal also stressed that each Catholic must “declare himself in the age-old struggle between good and evil…It is not good enough to be only a passenger, to try to live in ‘no-mans land’ between the warring parties. Life forces us to choose, eventually destroys any possibility of neutrality.”
The choice isn’t a simple one, said the cardinal. “Following Christ is not cost free, not always easy, because it requires struggling against what St. Paul calls “the flesh,” our fat relentless egos, old fashioned selfishness. It is always a battle, even for old people like me!”
Commitment brings fulfillment
He encouraged the youth not to sit on the fence, “keeping your options open, because only commitments bring fulfillment. Happiness comes from meeting our obligations, doing our duty, especially in small matters and regularly, so we can rise to meet the harder challenges. Many have found their life’s calling at World Youth Days.”
“I expect that in the next five days of prayer and celebration that your spirits will rise, as mine always does, in the excitement of this World Youth Day. Please God we shall all be glad that we participated, despite the cost, hassles and distances traveled. During this week we have every right to rejoice and celebrate the liberation of our repentance, the rejuvenation of our faith. We are called to open our hearts to the power of the Spirit. And to the young ones I give a gentle reminder that in your enthusiasm and excitement you do not forget to listen and pray!”
The cardinal concluded by forewarning the young pilgrims that the World Youth Day celebrations would quickly pass and they would soon return to their normal routine.
“Briefly we are now here in Sydney at the center of the Catholic world, but next week the Holy Father will return to Rome, we Sydneysiders will return to our parishes, while you, now visiting pilgrims, will go back to your homes in places near and far.”
“But when we part after these happy days, let us never part from our loving God and his Son Jesus Christ. And may Mary, Mother of God, whom we invoke in this World Youth Day as Our Lady of the Southern Cross, strengthen us in this resolution.”
For the full text of Cardinal Pell’s homily, please click here or visit http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/sydney08/resource.php?res_id=624