Last Sunday you heard four members of our youth ministry SMYLE address us after Holy Communion. (You must know by now that SMYLE stands for St. Matthias Youth Living Evangelization.) Thank you to those who responded to their invitation to volunteer some time to help with our youth ministry. One thing that all of the four teens – Abigail Joseph, Emily Chavez, Isabel McGuire and James Nonaillada –told us was very significant: “Youth Ministry is a safe place to be ourselves. It is filled with real people from different backgrounds, ages, experiences, and issues. With the help of God, this diverse group thrives as a family, and every youth deserves to be a part of this family.”
Yes, though diverse, we are one family. That is also the theme in the readings of this Sunday. The vision God has put forward in Isaiah was something unthinkable for the Jews of that time and may not be easily acceptable even for us: that the foreigners or pagans are welcome and their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on the altar of God because “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:6-7).
This was the experience of the incredible number of young people at the World Youth Day two weeks ago in Lisbon, Portugal. This largest Catholic event surpassed expectations with 1.5 million pilgrims joining Pope Francis for the closing Mass on August 6. Can you imagine such a mammoth crowd of Catholics in one place – singing, praising, praying, dancing and celebrating with Pope Francis and other leaders? It was an electrifying experience for them, suffused with so much joy, excitement and spiritual fervor. Young adults from different parts of the US have shared their experience on various platforms. Here are just two:
Stacy Escobar, 26, from Arlington, VA, said that one of her favorite moments from the trip was during an outdoor Eucharistic adoration event set up specifically for travelers from the United States: “That was probably one of the most beautiful moments of Eucharistic adoration I have ever seen. The host was glowing in the monstrance. It was beautiful. The sunset was amazing. And just seeing everybody and all the international flags, the diversity was just beautiful.”
Savannah Dudzik, 22, from Tampa, FL, said that one of the most memorable moments was seeing Pope Francis up close: “We were within a few feet of him. Seeing Pope Francis was incredible because in what other situation do a million people get so excited to see a man who’s in his 80s? It’s because it has to be something more … He’s witnessing to the word of God. That’s why we’re so excited.” Then she added: “World Youth Day showed the Catholic youth that the Catholic Church is truly universal.”
I have asked our own parishioners who attended the WYD 2023 to share with us their insights or takeaways from this unforgettable event. May we become more of a welcoming community, respecting and celebrating our diversity.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal