Youth festival Melbourne

The theme of our Catholic Youth Festival this year is “The spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18).

This very significant passage is when Jesus begins his public ministry and returns to the place where he grew up in Nazareth and goes into the synagogue, opens up the book of Isaiah, and reads from it.

I’d like to offer three important questions to all of us as we begin our festival together in the light of this beautiful passage from the scripture.

These questions come from St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) who was the founder of the Jesuits.  He was the founder of the Jesuits about 500 years ago.

The first question is “what has God done for me?”

We sometimes forget that Jesus spent 30 years of his 33 year old life with his family in Nazareth.  So much has happened to him before he arrived at this pivotal moment of his life where he begins his public ministry.

I suppose when Jesus began his public ministry by quoting from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue he too may have asked himself what about what had His loving Father in heaven done for Him.  He may have thought of his life over the last 30 years with Mary his mother and Joseph his foster father. He would have been grateful for all that has taken place.  We know of Mary’s “Yes” in the Annunciation, and her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth in the Visitation.  The early life of Jesus, even before he was born, was the total grace of God coming into his life.  The grace of God was poured into the life of Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth as they opened themselves up to the salvation history taking place so directly in their lives.

We too must ask what has God done for us with his many graces in our life.  Think of it for a moment. What about your own family backgrounds?  Too often we forget about those we love the most.  Let’s be grateful at the beginning of this Festival for all that has taken place in our lives to this point.  We want to thank God for our parents as well and for our families.  We want to thank God for the many opportunities he has given us perhaps in education and with giving us health and sustenance and food and shelter in this great land of Australia.

Let us begin our Festival with a grateful heart, a thanksgiving heart,  a heart full of praise for God.

We say to Jesus, “Thank you God for the Spirit of the Lord, so much in my life up until this point”.

Now, secondly, let us look at our life in the present moment. We now ask ourselves “What are we doing for God now?”’  When Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah it was present tense “The spirit of the Lord IS upon me”.

How IS God upon you now?  How IS God upon all of us?

We must be careful to check our motivation in being here.  If we are simply coming along here, for example, to find a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend and this is our primary motivation, then we must ask God to change our hearts immediately.  We must purify our heart and so be ready for all the graces that God gives us and not to have our own selfishness and sinfulness and even the devil coming to distract us.  This is our moment before God.  This is God’s moment to speak to us deeply than perhaps ever before.

Thirdly, we ask ourselves “What will we do for God?”  This is future tense.  How will this Festival affect our lives in the future.  The greatness of God is within us.  How are we going to live out the greatness of God in our lives in the future?

When we ask these sorts of questions we start thinking not just simply of career but more so of our vocation in Christ.  These are the really big issues aren’t they?  We could think of becoming priests or religious sisters or religious brothers or married with the hope of a family, or to remain single for the Lord for the rest of our lives.  These are the primary vocations that are in front of us in the years ahead.  This is quite different from a career.  A career is an expression of the vocation but a vocation is much bigger than simply something we do in a professional way.

So I would like you to think seriously about your future.  Here at the Youth Festival we have a whole vocations exposé available to you.  It will help give you options and inform you about vocations to the priesthood and religious life, married life and remaining single for the Lord.  We also have available to us many opportunities of going to confession.  This is very important too, to clear our minds and hearts so that we can really listen to what God wants.

I sometimes like to think that a Christian life is a bit like a water bottle that most of you are carrying around as pilgrims.  To fill up the water bottle you have to take off the lid of the bottle.  Then it can be filled with the water.  If you try to fill a bottle of water that still has the lid on it then the water is going to go everywhere but where it should go deep into the bottle.  This lid is a bit like sin.  It blocks the grace of God from coming into us and really affecting our lives.  When we go to confession this lid is taken away so that God’s grace can affect us in all that we do and say.

A good example of all this happening is in the life of St Francis Xavier.  Remember, he relics came to Australia recently ?  About 500 years his life was turned upside down.  He really found a vocation within a vocation.  He came to see that a lot of the things that the world was offering, all the power and the wealth and the prestige were as nothing.  He repented and came closer to the Lord through his friendship with St Ignatius Loyola.  The two of them became co-founders of the Jesuits.

His vocational life as a Jesuit took him as one of the most extraordinary missionaries after all time after St Paul.  He evangelised in faraway places from Europe like India and Japan and died as he was about to enter into China.  Let us see him as a great example to us as we search out our vocation in life in the future.

So as we now launch out into our first National Youth Festival may we say with Jesus together that The Spirit of the Lord is upon US.  Let us allow Jesus to lead US.  Let us allow Jesus to come into our lives like never before.

Let us pray that Mary the Mother of God and all the saints, especially St Mary MacKillop also be with us as we journey with Jesus.  Let us now pray now together the Hail Mary and invoke her presence.

Hail Mary ………

And so these three questions from St Ignatius Loyola could lead us in the days ahead:

  1. What have I done for Christ?
  2. What am I doing for Christ?
  3. What will I do for Christ ? ……

May these three primal questions be in our heart as we now go forward.  Jesus is with us, has been with us, and will be with us till the end of time.

(Talk abridged)