Jul 28, 2016

WYD2016 Catechesis 2: Allowing Ourselves be Touched by Christ’s Mercy

Bishop Brendan Leahy

Catechesis in the Church of St Andrzeja Boboli

Krakow, World Youth Day

Catechesis 2: Allowing Ourselves be

Touched by Christ’s Mercy



I would like to start today’s catechesis by inviting you to imagine a time you’ve looked at the stars above in the sky – millions of them, each orbiting in their orbit. It’s a beautiful harmony that captivates us. Then imagine you are looking at our world where there are also millions and millions of human beings but, unfortunately, so often divided and at war. There is a difference between the stars in their orbit in the skies and human beings on earth. The stars are not free. We, on the other hand, have been gifted with freedom. This explains the wars and violence when people do not live according to God’s merciful plans but rather their own. It is our dignity to be able to say “yes” to God. It is our dignity to be able to freely accept Christ’s mercy and act on it. And this is a desire felt by men and women all over the globe. Take a prayer from one of the Hindu writings, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads: “From the unreal, lead me to the real! From darkness lead me to light! From  death lead me to immortality!”,

The first point is to emphasise that no one can force us to do this. We are free to accept or reject God’s mercy. Freedom is an important aspect of our Catholic faith. We are created free so that we can freely respond to God. God is with us along the journey at every point of our lives. For each of us he has fixed an orbit for the star of our freedom to travel. He wants to work with us. But it is our dignity to freely abandon ourselves to him, our creator who is full of mercy. So let’s listen to a personal question Pope Francis addresses to each young person:

Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you... Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”. Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair.”

A Suggestion – Three Communions

We often talk about going to Holy Communion. But I want to propose to you three communions that you can live in order to really accept Christ’s mercy.

The first is communion with the Word of God. Scripture is not like ordinary human words. It is the Word of God. It has the power to do what it says. It is alive and active (Heb 4). It can be applied in all situations. Dear young people, try and read some aspect of the Gospel every day. It’s so easy now. There are apps you can download on your mobile. Try and take a line of Scripture that strikes you and remember it through the day, applying it to the situations you are facing. It really brings Christ’s mercy alive in you and through you for others. One the earliest writers of the Church said that the Word of God can seem the smallest of seeds compared to great philosophies. But the difference is that when it grows it becomes a big tree, producing great fruits. But there’s another point. Try and fix moments with your friends when you can share your experiences. I think it was the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, who said somewhere that it was the trick of the Devil to make you not want to talk about your good experiences of the Gospel, of faith. Don’t be put off. Look for the appropriate moments and with prudence and discretion share your good experiences of the Gospel. I know that today there are many groups, communities, movements, lectio divina groups that share experiences. This is really good.

In these days of our meeting in Krakow, I know the young people of my diocese have a leaflet with three points for reflection – name a moment of wonder or surprise; name a word or phrase that expressed something for you; name a moment where you sensed the presence of the light of Christ.

The second communion is communion with our neighbour. In order to help us accept his mercy, God has given us a wonderful gift in the sisters and brothers we meet moment by moment throughout the day. Jesus is in each of them, perhaps Jesus who has to be helped to grow, to mature, to die well and to rise again, but always Jesus. By trying to reach out in love to our neighbour we discover ourselves growing in accepting Christ’s mercy. The more I serve Jesus in my neighbour, the more Jesus in me grows.

But we don’t just do this individually on our own. Saint John the Evangelist writes: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love...In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-11). Once mercy impacts on us, we begin to love in a new way, we take the initiative in loving. But we also feel the need to come together in love for one another. And this is the deepest meaning of the Church. Jesus himself said so: If you love one another, all will know you are my disciples (Jn 13:35). “where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20).

The Church is mutual love. We gather as a community. It strengthens us, encourages us and gives greater witness to Christ’s mercy. One of the proverbs says “a brother helped by another brother is like a strong city” (Prov 18:19). Recently in my diocese we held a Synod, that is a gathering of representatives of the whole diocese, coming together to make decisions about the future of the Diocese. There were 400 of us there, of all ages, and we spent three days together. It was a great experience, full of hope. We felt a new energy, a new strength because that’s what happens when we come together. It’s the purpose of the Church – to strengthen us in our unity with God and with one another. And one of the main outcomes of the Synod was that we need to work much more on building the sense of belonging in the Church.

Dear young people, your great contribution too. You have great energy and life and ideas! You can bring a lot to this aspect of communion with our neighbour in the Church. At times you might find the church’s Sunday Mass is not enough or it’s too boring. I know that. But you can make a difference. Try and gather your friends and see what you can do in your parish, your area, your movement, group of community, or diocese. Because the sense of community is very important for helping people to accept Christ’s mercy. The sense of community is important for the sake of building up peace in our world.

That’s why it is so good to go on pilgrimages, have youth meetings and initiatives, set up social projects and forums for discussion of major topics. That’s why it is so good to talk. We know, and this also came out in our Synod, that for many young people they are concerned about mental issues that they see many other young people have. We need to be able to talk with one another. We need to be able to share the deep-down things – both our good experiences and our difficult experiences. As I said we need to be able to talk about faith and what the Gospel means to us. But we need also to be able to talk about our difficulties. It is another trick of the Devil that makes us exaggerate our problems and not talk to anyone because we feel no one else has that problem. In each case, we must go ahead and speak. It is important to speak, to share, to open up. And to ask for help if we need it.

I remember once a young man I met at a youth gathering. He was a very good young man but he couldn’t bring himself to go to confession because of a sin – and it wasn’t really a very serious sin- that he had committed as a teenager. It was as if he felt he had to be worthy of God’s mercy in order to receive it! Thankfully his friends talked it through with, encouraged him and persuaded him to go and talk to the priest. It was a moving moment in his life. It was a deep encounter with God’s mercy. But notice how it was his friends that helped him. We really need to give each other a hand in accepting Christ’s mercy.

The third communion is communion with the Eucharist. Of course, this is central. The Mass is the great gift Jesus left us. When I was 18 I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. He said to me, “Do you know something I heard recently? That at Mass, Jesus’ sacrifice and death at Calvary are re-enacted. Did you ever hear that?” I answered, “no”. We probably had heard it a thousand times but it was as if now we were ready to “hear” it in a new more adult way. It’s true that at every Mass, we are there, at the foot of the Cross. It is a special opportunity to be close to Jesus Christ, speak to him, ask his help, offer him anything worrying us and receive from him a new injection of the Holy Spirit to help us.

But what does the Mass do? It unites us! It makes us one. On the Cross, Jesus entered into our darkness and sin, our doubt and divisions. He has made them his own and carried them for us. He even reached the point of crying out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And from the Cross, the Crucified and Forsaken Jesus united us to God and to one another. From the Cross, he poured out his Spirit of unity and peace, love and freedom upon us. We celebrate this at every Mass. That’s why the Eucharist is called the sacrament of unity.

Of course, the Mass doesn’t stop at the final blessing. We have to go out and, as it were, say our Mass! Yes the priests says Mass every day, every Sunday. That lasts 40 minutes or more. But then there’s the rest of the week! We have to “say” our Mass with our lives. We have to keep on living what we celebrate at Mass – Jesus laying down his life for us, uniting us. We have to become builders of unity and peace, reaching out to others in difficulties and help them in their problems, offering them hope

Living Our Mass – An Example

Chiara Lube Badano was a normal young person. She loved reading, sport, music. She had plenty of friends. There are photographs of her on her mobile phone. Even in her illness she had managed to be a person who lived her Mass right throughout the day – in small and big acts of love for all those she knew. She had a huge influence on her friends.

I was struck by what she said to her mother about her friends as she was dying: ““The youth are the future. I can no longer run, but I’d like to pass the Olympic torch on to them. The young people have only one life and it’s worth it to spend it well!”. That “Olympic torch” for her was the fire of the love of Christ that wants to unite people with God and with one another.

How did she live out her Mass during the day? I noticed she had a little that she would repeat whenever she met a difficulty: “if you want it, Jesus, I want it too.” People were praying for a miracle. Yes, she wanted it too. But she realised what mattered most was to want whatever Jesus wants for us. He is with us. We can turn to him and declare deep within us our love for him and our readiness to live for him. We can do this right throughout the day, many times a day, especially in those moments where to love others costs us something. It’s at those moments, we can accept Christ’s mercy: “if you want it, Jesus, I want it too”.


The great teacher in accepting Christ’s mercy is Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. Now this might seem strange. After all she was without sin. True. But we have to remember she was a young girl with her plans and dreams. God had a great plan for her to play a major part in the life of Jesus Christ who is Mercy. God indicated to her his merciful plan for her to become the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. She could have been full of her own ideas and kept going along her own ways but she decided to let God take the lead in her life. Notice, she didn’t do this and then keep it all to herself privately. She visited Elizabeth, opened up and shared her experience.

That’s why Mary is the great model of the Church. We pray to Mary, we ask her help. But, even more, we need to live like her. She is the model for each of us and for the whole Church. That’s why Mary is the Queen of the Apostles. Nobody more than Mary knows about Christ’s mercy. Nobody more than her has given Jesus to the world. Each of us can “be” a continuation of Mary in the world.