World Youth Day Commissioning Mass

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Jesus Christ is at the centre of our faith, recorded powerfully by the accounts of the four gospels.  Some of you may be aware of the four classic mosaics that overlook the high altar in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Each depicts a rather elderly man with an almost blank manuscript in one hand, a stylus in the other and a dove on his shoulder.  The implication is that they are eye witnesses to the ministry of Jesus, who in their old age composed a history of what they saw and heard, aided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Today Saint Luke brings us to a fundamental challenge; the question of Jesus ‘who do the crowds say I am? … who do you say I am?’  It is significant that when Peter said ‘the Christ of God’, Jesus told him to tell no one about this.  Jesus was determined to fulfil his mission to teaching, passion, death and resurrection because he wanted to emphasise that in the acknowledgement of Jesus there must also be an acknowledgement of his cross.  This cross of suffering and struggle must always be present in the journey of our listening to Jesus and in our thirsting for him as Lord and God.
As we rejoice in the Lord and in those who will accompany us to Rio de Janeiro, we allow the Lord to draw us together along with the other people who are going with us.  Pope Benedict invited us to accept Christ’s love and be witnesses so needed by the world. 
My own experience over five World Youth Days is how young people by their generous gift of self, have found in the World Youth Day a warm encounter with Jesus, the realisation that they are not alone.  Sometimes the darkness of questioning and uncertainty in the lives of young people can be helped by the light of faith to understand that each human life is priceless because each of us is a fruit of God’s love.  God loves everyone, even those who struggle.  He waits patiently and gave us Jesus in order to free us from evil to bring the joyful message of Jesus’ love and life to everyone. 
My prayer is that at Rio you will discover God is near to you and with other beautiful young people you will live that nearness, helped by Jesus in his word and in the Eucharist, ready to proclaim by your life the gifts that you have received from God.  Rio is a wonderful opportunity to experience how much God loves you, to see how many young people in the world are filled with the same love and hope and to be instruments of hope for the world and for the Church back at home. 
You will do this by reaching out to Jesus as your Way, your Truth and your Life.  You will do this  surrounded with the love of Mary’s prayers and learn from Jesus the great Teacher, who is gentle and humble in heart. (Matthew 11:29)  We as disciples are attentive to Jesus’ words, knowing that Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life for us.  So we let our lives be shaped by God’s Word and his love every day. 
Lastly, we need to believe that each of us has special gifts given by God, firm in the faith that God will never desert you and with the whole Church ready to hear in the depths of your heart Jesus’ call to proclaim the Gospel.  As the great statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro shows, his heart is open with love for every person, his arms are open wide to reach out to everyone.  Be yourselves, as Pope Benedict says, the heart and arms of Jesus.  Go and bear witness to his love.
Today we personally seek to answer the question of who Christ is to us, remembering that the cross of suffering, striving, even failure and loss, brings us closer to the one who gave all that we might live.  We are all one in Christ Jesus.  We thirst for him as Lord and God, for he has been our help, his right hand holds us fast.
+ Denis J. Hart,
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