Archbishop Charles Chaput of held three catechetical sessions at World Youth Day, urging youth to follow Christ with humility, to share their faith with joy, and to serve the poor both in body and in soul.
“Everyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ is called to preach the Gospel to the world,” the archbishop said.
“Your joyful witness touches and changes others, often in unforeseen ways. So don't be afraid; never be afraid. God is calling you and me and all of us here today to ‘set the world on fire’ with the love of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Chaput’s first catechesis, delivered in Rio de Janeiro Wednesday July 24, explored the thirst for God found in every human heart.
“We’re here to begin a new and deeper kind of life. And we can only do that by meeting Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Chaput said. World Youth Day, he stated, is meant to lead people to “the only thing that can really satisfy our thirst and our hope.”
He compared the “noise and distractions in the world” to salt water on a hot day -- something that will not slake thirst but will make ill those who drink it. He criticized consumerism, selfishness, and a reductive view of humanity that ignores virtues such as love, heroism and self-sacrifice.
“God offers us something much greater. God made us not for mediocrity and failure, but for glory and joy. He created us to share in his love forever.”
The archbishop added that living the Christian life is not easy, but demands “humility and patience.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. Follow Jesus Christ with all your energy and zeal. And there’s no time to delay. Begin here, today – now.”
Archbishop Chaput’s second catechesis, held on Thursday, focused on how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus went to the cross so that you and I could have the dignity of taking up our own crosses and joining him in the work of sanctifying the world. That may seem strange to you. But this loving, profoundly attractive man we call Jesus lived a hard life and died a miserable death.”
“Many who claim to have accepted Jesus often lose their faith when challenges come into their lives. But real Christians know what it means to suffer and to suffer with others.”
Archbishop Chaput said that love “always requires suffering,” but is “always worth it.” In the crucifixion, he said, Christ transformed suffering into “redeeming love.”
As a concrete example of how Christians show this love, the archbishop pointed to a parish his archdiocese, whose families volunteered to babysit and cook for the family of a young widower who had to work to support his several children.
Archbishop Chaput added that faith in Christ is not an individual matter. Rather, it “comes alive for us most fully in the community of believers Christ himself founded to carry on his work,” the Church.
Christians should have the “humility to be part of a community,” despite its imperfections. He encouraged Catholics who find lukewarm parishes to “work unselfishly to bring it to life” rather than settling “for the status quo,” and moving on to a more faith-filled community only if “nothing seems to work.”
Archbishop Chaput also emphasized the importance of prayer. He stressed that Christ's strength came from “constant prayer to his Father.” He forgave those who “came to him in humility,” while having “no patience for sin and hypocrisy.”
“He loved his friends even when they didn’t deserve his love,” the archbishop said. “Jesus was utterly real. There was nothing phony about him -- which is why people loved being in his presence.”
In his third catechesis, held on Friday, the archbishop encouraged his audience to “go forth” as missionaries.
“The greatest way we can show love to other persons is by sharing Jesus Christ with them. And that means all of us are called to be missionaries.”
He urged Catholics to realize that many people have “never even heard of the Gospel” while others have “heard and ignored it.” Faith only grows through witnessing it to others, he added.
While some Catholics are called to be like St. Francis Xavier and spread the faith around the world, most Catholics must “work in the mission fields of our homes and schools, our sports teams, jobs, and friends.”
Archbishop Chaput noted many Catholics’ embarrassment in talking about their faith. In part this is because it is easier “not to make a big deal about our faith” and another portion is because of those who “sometimes give religion a bad name.”
He said Catholics should overcome this reluctance.
“If your friends and family don’t encounter a living Jesus Christ through your words and actions, then you’re doing them a disservice,” he said. “If you act out of genuine love for God and others, your patience and persistence will move hearts.”
He urged Catholics to find those who are poor in their own communities, get to know them and help them both materially and spiritually.
“If we don’t bring the poor to know and love Jesus Christ even as we provide for their material needs, then we’re betraying our own baptism and not doing the poor any good. No matter what good things we give to people, if we don’t also give them Jesus Christ, then we’re selling them short.”
The archbishop reminded pilgrims that their daily activities all have meaning. He promised that no act of sincere faith will “ever be wasted.”
He encouraged pilgrims to act with humility and prayer to help allow the enthusiasm of World Youth Day to “put down roots in your heart, and grow into the kind of zeal and conviction that no one can ever take away from you.”
Archbishop Chaput was one of more than 250 bishops delivering catechetical sessions for pilgrims in Rio this week. The catecheses are meant to help the pilgrims to understand, and to absorb Pope Francis' message into their lives.