Call to Holiness - A Reflection on the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment
NASA Scientists announced a few months ago that the Voyager II spacecraft, which was launched from Planet Earth in 1977, has now left our solar system and entered interstellar space! In 42 years, Voyager II has travelled eleven billion miles and it will keep going, onwards and outwards towards the next star beyond our Sun. But don't wait up! Do you know how long it will take it to reach the next star? 40,000 years!
When I think of the vastness of the universe, and of God, the Creator of heaven and earth, it leaves me speechless! One of the psalms (Ps8:3-6)) describes my feeling:
Lord, when I see your heavens,
the work of your hands,
the moon and the stars,
which you have arranged, I think:
what is humankind that you keep us in mind,
human beings that you care for us?
It's amazing, isn't it?
To think that God, the Almighty, the Creator of all that exists, cares about you and me personally; God loves each one of us uniquely and intimately!
To realise that, of all the millions of planets in the universe, God loved our world so much that He sent His Only Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour!
And when God's Son came among us, He did so as a little child, born in a stable on a bitter Bethlehem night.
How awesome is that!
The Eternal Word, who is God, was made flesh and lived among us!
Friends, think for a moment, how did you end up here at Flame today? Who invited you? Why did you say "Yes"? Well I think it is no accident that you are here. God called you here because God loves you uniquely and personally. And God calls you to love him back and to do something special for him in the world. You are significant to God. As Cardinal Newman - soon to be saint - put it: "God has created me to do Him some definite service… some work which He has not committed to another"
Will you dare to say "Yes" to your mission from God?, to say, as the prophet Isaiah did: "Here I am, Lord; send me!"
Or are you thinking, "No way Lord! You couldn't be calling me - I am weak, I am not good enough".
Well, if that is the case, you wouldn't be the first!
When Isaiah first heard God's call he said, "I am wretched and lost, a man of unclean lips".
The prophet Jeremiah protested that he was too young; he would not know how to speak.
Simon Peter said, "Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man".
Even the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation paused before giving her "Yes" to God: "How can this be," she said to the angel.
But each became convinced that God was saying to them: Do not be afraid. You are not alone. I will be with you, and with my help, together we can make a difference, and make the world a better place. Together we can change things....
A few years ago, at World Youth Day in Kraków, Pope Francis asked the young people several times, "Can we change things?" Their answer was a resounding "Yes!"
Just six months later, Pope Francis announced a Synod of bishops from all over the world, to discuss the topic of "Young People, Faith and Vocation. Pope Francis wants young people to be the "centre of attention" in the Church. You are in his heart. You are in the heart of God. You are in the heart of the Church!
I was privileged to represent Ireland at the Youth Synod in Rome last October. It was fantastic!
Let me share with you what I learned at the Synod on Young People.
The Synod convinced me that you, my young friends, are in the heart of God and in heart of the Church. You are being personally called to holiness - whether it be as married or single people, as priests or consecrated persons.
The Holy Spirit is gifting young people like you with charisms, just as at Pentecost. You know what charisms are? - Charisms are special gifts given to someone to use for the needs of the Church and to make the world a better place.
The Holy Spirit does not give you charisms to keep to yourself - they are to help you grow in holiness, and to help you build up faith in others and in God's Church.
The Holy Spirit can give these charisms through Baptism and Confirmation or at any time in your life. Sometimes charisms can lie dormant or unused within us - but if we discover them, and use them, they can change our lives and help to change the world!
At the Synod in Rome, young adults from various parts of the world, spoke to us about the struggles they are facing.
We heard about how young people, and even children, being caught up in poverty;
About violence and human trafficking;
About children and teenagers being separated from their families because of migration.
Some young people shared with us the pressures and confusions you can face nowadays:
how vulnerable you can be on social media;
how you can feel suffocated by expectations of your friends, family, and schools;
the pressure of relationships, addictions, compulsions;
the stress of always having to present a positive image.
They told us how difficult it is nowadays for young people to keep it together. Sometimes you feel like screaming, "Help me someone"! "Help me, God"!
How easy it is today to lose your bearings.
You sometimes struggle to find stable moral reference points and to keep a sense of direction and purpose in life.
At the Synod I admitted honestly to a young American woman: I find it difficult as a bishop to relate to young people.
I find it hard to connect with your world, especially when you have drifted away from Mass and the sacraments.
How can I reach young people?
She looked straight at me and said: "Archbishop Eamon, you don't have to do everything yourself!
Let your young people reach other young people! - People like me, and my friends, who have faith - we can reach them for you - we can be your missionaries in the Church!"
And that was one of my best "Take-home's" from the Synod: that young people want to help in the Church, to be part of the Church's mission and outreach.
You don't want simply to be the OBJECTS of evangelisation and pastoral ministry in the Church; you want to be AGENTS of evangelisation and mission to each other and, indeed, to the whole world.
The young people, like you, who were present at the Synod in Rome were teaching us bishops that, if only we can find ways to accompany you on your personal journey of holiness, and if we can form and support you along the way, then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, YOU will be the missionary disciples who will bring the light of faith to your peers and even to those who are far away from Church.
As the Synod put it, you young people want to be "PROTAGONISTS". You are called and gifted by the Holy Spirit, in your own right, to be active participants in the new evangelisation.
My dear young people I call you then to be missionary disciples among the poor;
to be agents of social action;
to be advocates for the protection of Life;
to help build a civilisation of love;
to contribute to ecumenism and reconciliation.
Dare to say "Yes" to your calling from God.
Be volunteers at home and abroad.
Be apostles to young migrants.
Be leaders and advocates in addressing serious injustices like human trafficking.
Be active in caring for the earth, our common home!
And as Pope Francis said at Panama, your "Yes" is NOW.
You are called to Holiness. Now!
You are called to transform society. Now!
Go out into the worlds of media;
the digital highways;
business and commerce;
Help to transform the world with the values of the Gospel and the merciful love of God!
Forty years ago this year, Pope John Paul II came to Ireland.
I was in my last year at school, doing my A-levels, and I was applying, through UCAS, to do Engineering at Queens University in Belfast. I remember Pope John Paul speaking to the young people of Ireland, and I felt he was speaking directly to my heart. He said:
"You will hear people tell you that your religious practices are hopelessly out of date, that they hamper your style and your future, that with everything that social and scientific progress has to offer, you will be able to organize your own lives, and that God has played out his role".
And then Pope St John Paul cried out:
"Something else is needed: something that you will find only in Christ, for He alone is the measure and the scale that you must use to evaluate your own life. In Christ you will discover the true greatness of your own humanity; He will make you understand your own dignity as human beings "created to the image and likeness of God" (Gen 1 :26).
Christ has the answers to your questions and the key to history; Christ has the power to uplift hearts.
He keeps calling you, he keeps inviting you, He who is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14 :16).
Through Pope John Paul I heard the Holy Spirit speaking to me, saying "Eamon- something else is needed" (Engineering is not for you!)
Shortly afterwards I began to enquire about the priesthood.
Friends, at the Synod in Rome last October I once more heard the Holy Spirit speaking in my heart, saying to me: "Something else is needed in the Church, and the key to that 'something' rests with our young people! They hold the answer to the present and future of our Church!"
Why should I be surprised at this? Who did God choose to be his servant from among the sons of Jesse? He chose David, the youngest, the shepherd boy, to be his champion! God bestowed his Spirit powerfully upon David? So why should we be surprised that God is choosing you, the youngest of his faithful, to be his 'champions' - to confront the giant 'Goliath' challenges in today's world?
God has opened my eyes to see that it is you, our young people, who are his chosen instruments to make a difference in the Church and in the world.
I said it at the Synod in Rome, and I say it here again today, at Flame:
"How I long for the New Pentecost, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew the faith of our young people and, through them, to rejuvenate our Church!"
So I ask you today, as Pope Francis did at Kraków:
"Can we change things"?
My dear young people, you are called to holiness!
Dare to say "Yes"
Your "Yes" is now!
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