(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
Young people, and some not so young, came from every corner of the world. Why? They came to be with the Vicar of Christ on earth, to give witness to their faith and to celebrate that faith conviction with their peers. It was, indeed, a beautiful sight to behold.
All of last Sunday’s readings speak to us of the providence and faithfulness of God. In the first, from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God reveals His deep desire to provide for us. “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” In this passage God reveals that He knows our needs, and freely provides for them. The images of water and grain signify the most basic needs in life. God knows that we have bills to pay and children to feed, that we need love and friendship, and He daily provides for those needs.
When the storms of life come, it is easy to take our eyes off of God and allow our fears to focus on what is going wrong. St. Paul, knowing the truth of God’s providence and our propensity to focus on outside events, speaks directly to the challenges we face in life and the temptation to feel that God has forgotten us. St. Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome who were experiencing severe persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. No doubt they were occasionally tempted to look at their circumstances and wonder about God’s providence for them. Many of their family members and friends had been killed because of their Christian faith. He wanted to remind them of God’s love and providential care for them, that it is unshakable and ever-present. He writes: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No … I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No circumstance or difficulty can stop God from loving and providing for us His children. Through our free will, we can turn away from God, but God will never turn away from us. Jesus makes a point of telling us this through His parables of the prodigal son and the good shepherd; and he reveals this to us through the events of His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection. God desires to draw near to us. He has gone to great lengths to demonstrate this. After Adam and Eve sinned, God immediately implemented His plan for our redemption. Jesus’ death on the cross not only washed away sin, but through baptism we are made the very adopted children of God.
The youth at World Youth Day understand the great love God has for them, and it is their vibrant, living faith that our Holy Father holds up as a light to the world and salt of the earth. He encouraged them, and all of us, to stir up our faith and live vibrant Christian lives. The evil one and our secular society slowly chip away at our faith, and sometimes we look at our faith lives and think that we seem to just be going through the motions. We must ask ourselves if we are simply going through the motions in some particular area of our faith life. Are we living a deep spiritual life, a dynamic sacramental life and witnessing to the world around us? If not, why not? Is our faith languishing because of the trials and challenges that we face on a day to day basis? Have we become disillusioned by the recent revelations that some priests and bishops have not lived up to their callings? Have we lost a loved one? Have we experienced a deep personal loss? Has our life turned out differently than we thought it would? Do we truly believe that God is providing for our needs and the needs of the Church? Do we truly believe that God loves us? Do we believe that God loves us so intensely that nothing can separate us from that love — no personal loss, no scandal, no dream as yet unfilled?
Now is the time to reinvigorate our faith life! Now is the time to increase our prayer lives! Now is the time to frequent the sacraments more often! Why is now the time? Because God is calling each of us to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. As the Gospel reading depicts, God is moved with pity at the sight of suffering humanity, and He is sending us, His present-day disciples, to provide for their needs, to give them rest and relief from their sufferings and difficulties. “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
We are called to be the saints of the third Christian millennium! Be not afraid of this high calling! God is with us, providing for our needs, and He is immovable in His love for us. Nothing can separate us from that love, and, therefore, we must boldly proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Our world is searching for truth and love and meaning. God is sending each of us as the answer to that searching, to provide weary humanity with the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. As Psalm 45 tells us: “The eyes of all look hopefully to you [O Lord], and you give them their food in due season; you open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” That is the message God whispers in each of our hearts today, and that is the message that we must bring to everyone we meet. God loves us. God cares for us. God knows every need, every hurt, every dream.
Allow me to close with the exhortation of Pope John Paul II to the men, women and children assembled in Toronto for World Youth Day, which is also addressed to each of us. “The aspiration that humanity nurtures, amid countless injustices and sufferings, is the hope of a new civilization marked by freedom and peace. But for such an undertaking, a new generation of builders is needed. Moved not by fear or violence but by the urgency of genuine love, they must learn to build, brick by brick, the city of God within the city of man. Allow me, dear young people, to consign this hope of mine to you: you must be those ‘builders’! You are the men and women of tomorrow. The future is in your hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of love” (Address 7/27/02, 4).