My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Again, I want to welcome you all of you to our Eucharistic celebration — I hope that you are having a good time, a good day. It’s good isn’t it? It’s great — a great day for the family of God here in Los Angeles and in Southern California.
A great day to be with God and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I always look forward to Youth Day. It’s always exciting to come and be with all of you and that’s a special blessing for me to be with all of you today.
As I was preparing for Youth Day this year, I was thinking about something one of the saints said. The Church is beautiful in her saints.
And it is so true! And I think that that saint that was saying that was talking about you and about me. About us. The Church is beautiful in each one of us.
God made us in his own image, as his own children. Each one of us is very precious to him. And he wants us to be saints.
You know, I was saying this morning that when I was growing up — when people say that that we all are saints, we all are called to be saints, I thought “oh, that’s kind of weird. I don’t want to be a saint.”
But, as I’ve been growing up, believe it or not, now I understand what it means. It’s not just somebody that was so special that it’s impossible to be like that person.
We are called to be saints to go to Heaven because saints are in Heaven. So we are in the processes of, by the grace of God, being able to be saints. But we can say that we are called to be saints.
But, maybe what was my problem when I was growing up, we need to courage to accept Jesus’ friendship. Cause in that way, then we can think “Oh, I want to be like Jesus and Jesus is in Heaven.”
We need the courage to take his hand and walk with him
And that is the theme for this year’s youth day, as you know — “Dare to Believe.”
And that’s what the readings of today’s Mass are all about — daring to stand up and believe. Daring to have the courage to follow God’s commandments and his purposes.
In that first reading of today’s Mass, Moses has gone up on the mountain. He’s up there talking to God, getting his instructions, his marching orders for the people.
But while Moses is up there — he is gone 40 days — the people get scared. So, they decide to create their own “god.” This is the famous “golden calf.”
It is a terrible scene, all the people worshipping the golden calf. None of us has a gold calf, at least, I hope not.
But we all have our own little “idols” — things that we substitute for God, things that we depend on more than God. Maybe it is money, maybe it is the opinion of other people; maybe it is something you do to entertain yourself; music or videos or sports.
So during this Lenten Season, it is good for each one of us to ask ourselves: What are those things in my life that take me away from God?
As you know, a couple days ago it was the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis becoming Pope. We love Pope Francis, don’t we? Yes!
I’ve invited him many times to come to Los Angeles, so, I keep doing that. I hope we can convince him to come here because this is wonderful, isn’t it?
Anyway, thinking about those little things that we can give up, things that take us away from God. I wanted to share with you, I don’t know if you know, about 30 years ago, Pope Francis made a promise to the Virgin Mary — that he would never watch television again. And he has kept that promise. And he never looks at the Internet.
Could you do that? I’m not sure I could! I like sports, so I like to watch sports on TV. And this month is March Madness, maybe I think about it next month.
The point is that we can all have the temptation to forget about God, to look for ways to be happy that do not include him.
And I think part of it is — that we just get scared. Just like the people of Israel. Sometimes we don’t think we can live the way that God wants us to live.
But my dear brothers and sisters, we can.
In the Gospel today, Jesus challenges us. He says: “You do not accept me.” And then he says again, “You do not want to come to me to have life.”
This is the big question in everyone’s life. Will we accept the love of God? Will we come to Jesus and follow his way for us?
So the question is this: will we “dare to believe!”
My dear brothers and sisters, God has a beautiful dream for your life.
But you need to believe in that dream. You need to make God’s dream, your dream.
I want to tell you a story about one of our modern saints. She is Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl. She lived in Paris, France and died about 50 years ago.
When Madeleine was your age, she wrote poetry and loved to go to parties and go out dancing with her friends.
But along the way, she lost her faith in God. By the time she was 17, she become a hard-core atheist. She wrote a kind of “manifesto” with the title, “God is dead — long live death!”
But that was not the end of her story. God was not done with her.
She was engaged to be married to a man who was an atheist like her, but then her fiancé broke up with her. She was total depressed and she began to pray every day and she began reading the Gospels.
And there she made a new encounter with Jesus Christ.
She would later say: “By reading and reflecting I found God. But by praying I believed that God found me and that he is a living reality, and that we can love him in the same way that we love a person.”
So my dear brothers and sisters, the story of Madeleine’s life is that she dared to believe.
When you believe — then you discover that God is alive. You discover that he loves you and that he is working in your life and in the world. You find that he wants you to walk in friendship with Jesus and follow his purposes for your life.
Venerable Madeleine dared to believe and she followed the path that Jesus set out for her. She spent the rest of her life serving others and sharing the love of God.
And this is what God wants for each of us. He wants us to follow Jesus. He made you — to make a difference in the world. Like Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl, he wants you to be a missionary — to bring his love and his hope to other people.
So how do we do it? How do we follow Jesus and find the path that God wants for our lives? That’s the big question that we always have — how can I do it?
One simple and exciting practical and most important thing — you need to keep growing in your friendship with Jesus.
When I was your age, I was your age at some point, believe it or not, I developed three little habits that really helped me. Prayer. Just simple prayer — getting up in the morning, or at some point in the day, just giving thanks to God, or asking for help. Daily prayer. And reading a passage from the Gospel — just a brief passage of the Gospel, discovering the life of Jesus. And daily Mass. And I still do this every day.
Simple, but believe me, life-changing. Venerable Madeleine always talked about how important it was to read the Gospel every day.
I promise you, if you get into these habits, it changes in your life. You will start thinking like Jesus and acting like Jesus and more and more you will have the heart like Jesus. It is a beautiful thing, an amazing thing. So today, let us especially ask the intercession of Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl, that we can find God and allow God to find us.
And let us turn to our Blessed Mother Mary. Let us ask her to help us — to dare to believe in God’s beautiful dream for our lives! To dare to allow Jesus to change our lives and to help us to become saints! Missionary disciples, close friends with Jesus Christ.
1. Readings: (Thursday of the 4th Week of Lent) Exod. 32:7-14; John 5:31-47.