Commissioning Mass for WYD Pilgrims
Year C 15th Sunday
Every human being and all of humanity has a spirit of adventure. It is stronger in some of us than in others, but we all have it; we are all seekers, we are all searching. When I was a boy my brothers and I liked to search the caves and the pine forest in the hills at the back of our farm. We were scared of the boogeymen that we suspected might live in the eerie pine forest, and we dared not even imagine what we might find in the darkness of the caves! But we loved to go there anyway to see what we might find.
Humankind has always been adventurous. For thousands of years people have boldly pushed out from shore for adventure across the seas and oceans in tiny boats and ships that most of us these days wouldn’t even feel safe in crossing Sydney Harbour. These searchers of old overcame their fear of the enormous sea monsters they were convinced lurked under the surface of the water to go in search, some for wealth and power, others simply in search of new things, new knowledge, and new people.
More recently in the twentieth century we pushed off even further and started exploring the heavens, at first just a little bit in aeroplanes but then all the way into deep space, not searching for anything in particular, but just to see what we might find. I who am so scared of heights (this pulpit is about as far up as I’m happy to go!), I can hardly imagine the courage of those first people who attempted to fly or to be shot into space like cannon balls in a rocket!
Returning closer to home, twenty of us from the diocese are about to head off over the seas and across the heavens to Poland on our World Youth Day pilgrimage. We go in search of new people and new experiences; we go in the age-old quest for God.
In Czestochowa we will get a sense of what draws millions of pilgrims every year to the icon of the Black Madonna, the Queen of Poland, one of the world’s most famous Marian shrines and one of the world’s most popular places of pilgrimage.
In Auschwitz no doubt we will mourn as we are confronted with the dreadful inhumanity with which Godless people are capable of treating each other.
In the town of Wadowice where Saint John Paul II was born we will trace the origins of a great saint, one of the greatest Popes in the history of the Church, and perhaps the most influential man for good in the twentieth century.
And in Krakow we will be drawn into a deeper understanding of God’s mercy for us as we visit the shrine of Divine Mercy, and we will experience the youthful Church fully alive as we join the millions of young people from around the world who will gather with the joyful Pope Francis to sing, to dance, to pray, to talk, and to listen.
We twenty heading off next week to World Youth Day are no different to the rest of humanity. We human beings have always been searchers; we always will be. But the one journey which many of us are unwilling to take is the journey and the search within. Like little kids afraid of what they might meet in a dark cave, we are often afraid of what darkness might confront us within our own heart, or even worse, we might be afraid of the light that we might find once we start searching within, for that light might show up things we would prefer to remain hidden.
What will we find within if we are courageous enough to embark upon this inward search? Our First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (30:10-14) gives us the answer. We will find the voice of the Lord our God which is a law calling us to obedience. Why do I feel compelled to obey this voice? Quite simply because it is the voice of my creator! This voice, this law, is not far from us; it is not above the heavens nor beyond the seas that we must wonder how we will ever find it. No, the voice of God, his word, is very near, it is in our mouth and in our heart for our observance. God has put his word in us and he never stops calling to us.
And what will this voice say to us if we search for it and listen for it? What will it command us? Jesus tells us in the Gospel (Luke 10:25-37). This voice says “You must love the Lord your God and you must love your neighbour as yourself.” We must LOVE!
Anyone who has been to a few Catholic weddings would be familiar with the famous reading from Saint Paul about love. You know the one, it begins “love is patient, love is kind.” The Greek word Saint Paul uses for kindness (chresteuetai) refers to a good person who shows their goodness by their deeds. Lest we think love is only a patient love that puts up with annoying people, it must also be a kind love that is accompanied by good actions. Saint Paul wants to stress that love is more than a feeling. To love is to do something; and to do something good.
This is why we refer to the now famous Samaritan in Jesus’ parable which we have just heard as the Good Samaritan. His heart went out to the man beaten by the side of the road, he felt pity and compassion for him, and he did something for him. If we feel something in our heart for God and our neighbour but don’t do something for God and our neighbour in our actions, than we have something in our heart but it’s not love. We all know this, we know it in our heart.
The Good Samaritan embarked upon that all-important inward journey and found the voice of the Lord that called him to Love God and love his neighbour; that called him to avoid evil and to do good. Every journey we make changes us. The things we experience on our search bring us back home a little different. The search within when made properly changes us too. When we hear and obey the voice of the Lord in our heart we become people who love God, people who love our neighbour. Like the Samaritan, we become good, and there is nothing better for us to be than good.