Love of Christ helps us find identity, bishop teaches

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster gives the morning catechesis for WYD pilgrims July 24 2013 Credit Michelle Bauman CNA CNA 7 24 13 Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster gives the morning catechesis for WYD pilgrims July 24, 2013. | Michelle Bauman/CNA.

By experiencing the love of God and sharing it with those around us, we will find the answers to our deepest questions and longings, said Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster.

"When we give ourselves away to others in love, then we really do discover who we are, and it really is satisfying and fulfilling," he said.

The bishop spoke at a July 24 catechesis session at World Youth Day, addressing a group of English-speaking pilgrims from countries including the United States, Ireland, Norway, the Caribbean, Ghana, England, Australia, and the Philippines.

A key part of the formation at World Youth Day, the catechesis events offer a chance for pilgrims to be divided into smaller groups by language in order to hear a talk from a bishop and participate in a question-and-answer period. Confession and Mass are also a part of the sessions, along with song, prayer and reflection.

Bishop Sherrington told the pilgrims that they will spend their entire lives seeking the answer to three questions: Who am I? Am I loved? Whom do I love?

"It is my prayer and hope that through this experience in Rio, you hearts will be touched by Christ so that you may begin to answer those questions," he said.

While worldly advertising encourages us to define ours identity by brands and labels, these things will not ultimately satisfy us, the bishop cautioned. Rather, we have deeper desires that can only be filled by the God who created us.

He encouraged the pilgrims to ask themselves what they truly desire in their lives.

"Ultimately as human beings, we thirst to love and to be loved," he said.

This longing for authentic love is universal, he stressed, and when we do not find it, we turn to damaging alternatives, such as gang violence and self-harm.

But when we do find love, it gives meaning and direction to our lives, Bishop Sherrington continued.

He contrasted the image of a nomad with that of a pilgrim. Both are on a journey and may face challenges, he said, but "a pilgrim knows where he or she is going," while a nomad wanders aimlessly.

Once we have experienced the transforming love of Christ, we will be able to share it with other people, helping them go from nomad to pilgrim as well, he explained. The witness of our lives will draw others who see that we have found meaning through Christ.

Helping those around us encounter Christ and fall in love with him is an important part of our calling, he stressed, because like us, they are "hungering to know the Lord" and "thirsting to know his love."

The bishop encouraged the pilgrims to spend some time reflecting on their deepest longings and where those are truly fulfilled.

He pointed to the Biblical account of Samuel, who heard the Lord calling him in the night, but at first did not recognize that it was God who was calling.

Samuel had to "open his heart" to hear and understand the voice of the Lord, he said. Similarly, we must learn "to open our hearts to experience the love of Jesus Christ for us."

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