Around 400 youth packed St. Benedict's Church to hear Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas, Nevada deliver a catechesis on the Holy Spirit on Wednesday morning. The bishop challenged the youth to ask how the Holy Spirit is calling them vocationally.
During World Youth Day, catechesis or teaching sessions will be conducted in 29 languages in 235 different locations throughout Sydney.
Catechesis, which comes from the Greek word for echo, consists of a time of teaching where Catholic bishops from around the world fulfill their role as successors to the apostles by echoing their teaching. Sessions will involve a time of teaching, followed by a time for questions and answers. Most sessions will conclude with the celebration of the Eucharist and lunch.
Over the next three days, the themes of the catechesis are centred on the Holy Spirit and Mission’ as part of the Pentecost event.
The Most Reverend Joseph Pepe, led the catechesis at the University of Notre Dame on today’s theme, titled “Called to live in the Holy Spirit,” which focussed on the scripture verse “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit,” (Gal 5:25).
“The Holy Spirit is a mysterious force, but certainly a powerful one, which we don’t often think about,” he told over 400 pilgrims who lined the halls of the University’s St. Benedict’s church, leaving standing room only.
After inviting the pilgrims to blow on their hands and then hold their breath for a brief moment, he said, “Breath is the essence of life, and yet is it so subtle… The Spirit is also subtle, and mysterious to us, yet He is the breath that is gentle, yet so present, and so powerful because we need Him to have life.”
He offered the pilgrims another contrasting description of the Holy Spirit, as “an image of fire, burning the world causing a tremendous change and transformation.”
The Holy Spirit is present in many instances in the Bible, said Bishop Pepe. With reference to Genesis, he spoke of how “the Holy Spirit came out of God the creator to transform water into chaos.”
The Holy Spirit was present in the exodus of ancient Israelites from Egypt, where he told the pilgrims, “our God breathed on the water and parted them so that the people could walk to freedom, to a promised land.”
“The Spirit worked to make these ancient people to make them more aware of each other and more aware that God was part of their lives.”
The Spirit is such a powerful force that “He descended on the womb of Mary to conceive the Son of God,” he said to pilgrims.
Bishop Pepe asked pilgrims to imagine all the elements that brought them here today, to remind them that the Holy Spirit that made that possible.
How to Live in the Holy Spirit
“Jesus is a transforming power in our lives,” said Bishop Pepe, “It is through the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism that we can be transformed.”
“Our faith and our gift of faith is always a gift. We have been transformed into a new life. Jesus Christ made it possible to have this divine life. It gives us happiness, peace, a sense of presence of God in life, and great love that will last forever.”
“Gaining more knowledge of the Holy Spirit is an opportunity to become personally involved in God, to be come more aware of Him, and to integrate Him into your life,” said Bishop Pepe.
He finally asked the pilgrims to discern through the Holy Spirit what God was calling them to.
“What is God calling you to? Is He calling you to difficult challenges, special life in vocation, priesthood or religious life? Is He calling you to be a husband, wife, or to single life?” asked the Bishop.
Whatever the path they discerned, he urged them to “take the word of God and make it living… People experience the message of Jesus in a living way.”
After Bishop Pepe celebrated Mass with the pilgrims he told Catholic News Agency that delivering a catechesis to the large group of youth was “overwhelming.”
“It was awesome to see the faith of young people there, to see how many have come to hear and to listen to the word of the Lord. You feel like you are an instrument of God.”
“When he was talking about how the Holy Spirit was like breathing, and how necessary it was though subtle, [that] really struck me,” said Jeffery, a young pilgrim from California.
“I came to World Youth Day to “bolster my faith. [Bishop Pepe] really put the Holy Spirit and the Trinity in good perspective,” said Mike, one of 150 pilgrims attending Chaminade and Kellenberg on Long Island, New York who travelled to World Youth Day.