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Homily for 19th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year A, 2023

Let me begin by thanking everyone for your prayers for our World Youth Day (WYD) Pilgrimage. I believe there will be many fruits flowing from this experience. Perhaps one of the most profound moments happened at the last Mass for the Melbourne pilgrims on the Monday after WYD.


After the Mass, one pilgrim, a 15 year old student, got up to give his testimony. He spoke movingly about his situation coming into WYD and how he was leaving. He spoke about being very popular, but having no really close friends. He spoke about the world knowing so much about him, without ever really feeling like he belonged. He spoke about the proliferation of communication in this day and age, yet feeling like there were some secrets he could never share, that he had no-one to share them with, no-one he could trust them with. He spoke about wearing a mask all the time, and wondering whether he would ever be able to get rid of it, whether this was in fact all life was.


While he was speaking, you could feel the silence get deeper and deeper. There was this sense that everyone was holding their breath. A deep recognition of what he was describing, as well as a desperate hope for him and for ourselves that there would be a happy ending.


He was describing the Church in the boat being tossed around by the storms of the world. He was St Peter feeling the force of the wind, getting swallowed by the waves.


But he spoke of the transformative experience of being on the WYD pilgrimage. Of being seen and of being heard. Of baring his soul and being loved. Of being given something beautiful to hold onto. Of knowing he exists because of love and for a purpose. Of finding people in his small groups, in conversations in the corners or on the way. Quiet moments where he could open up.


This was Elijah, finding God in the quite amidst the uproar. Finding a deep peace that beckoned him out of his solitude.


Later, I spoke to another chaplain to find out who he was and where this word had come from. He told me that following the last reflection in his small group, this young man had approached the chaplain and told him that he had written something and that he might be called to share it. He didn’t know how to share it. He didn’t know who should hear it, and so he sought the chaplain’s advice. He was prepared to reveal himself, his whole self for his brothers and sisters. He wanted to become transparent for God’s power in his life, for the grace he had received, for how he had been saved.


This was St Paul in our second reading, prepared to lose everything, prepared to be exposed for the sake of God’s people. Out of a deep sense of gratitude for all he had received and out of a deep love for those around him, who might be lost like he had been.


And so in that last Mass, I saw today’s readings come to life in front of me. The Word took flesh in the life of this young man because first of all, all this first pertains to Jesus, the Word of God.


Christ is Elijah’s peace. He is that communion with the Father for which we all long, our eternal home. He also knows the deep anguish of our lives, the perils of the church, the suffering of the world. St Peter cries to him save me. Jesus cries to the Father, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?


But in this cry Jesus reveals the nature of this deep mystery. In the psalm he is reciting on the cross, his cry to the Father ends in praise of the Father. He knows that he experiences this suffering precisely because he has been sent by love that St Paul can only marvel at. Jesus knows that his communion with the world, the Cross, is already the triumph of God’s love. The offering he makes of himself in the Eucharist already gathers up the whole of creation in one supreme sacrifice to the Father. And so Christ is St Paul’s model of giving all, leaving all, out of an impossible love for us. He hears the cry of the poor and cannot help put pour out his heart. He cannot help but come to save us, precisely at the darkest hour. This is the extension of his peace to the world.


Let’s pray then for the same gifts in our own lives. May we look at our lives with open eyes. Let us know our hearts, what we fear, what we need, what we dare not hope for. And let us place all of this, all we are on the altar. Let us lift up our hearts, praying that God will make us, his body, food for the world.

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