Today’s theme was 1 Corinthians 12:13: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit" (NAB). However, to me the prominent theme was . . .
. . . the necessity of God in everything that we do, that He may be our central focus, our life-force, and our reason for being.
This morning was the second of our catechetical sessions. For three mornings of the World Youth Day week, groups meet at their assigned locations for catechetical sessions with bishops of their language group. Our Franciscan University group meets with a number of other groups (from New Mexico, Canada, and Perth in Western Australia) in downtown Sydney. A Protestant congregation has been generous enough to host us in their space for our catechesis. It's actually a beautiful testimony to the Christian faith we all share and to the unity for which we all hope (we do indeed drink of "one Spirit"!). Before the bishop's talk, we pray together and sing praise as a group. After the talk we have Mass in the same place. So these catechetical sessions are happening all over the city and surrounding suburbs, in different places, different languages, and with different people, all on the same theme.
Today Bishop Grech of Australia (originally from Malta) spoke of God's personal love for each of us, that He has chosen each one of us, and that we are special because of this. We might not think we can do what God asks us to do-- we can only do it with Him! And the Lord sends us His Holy Spirit so that we might be empowered with His gifts to live the Christian life. As the bishop so eloquently pointed out, we all have problems, but that's why we belong to a Church, that together we might remain focused on Jesus. People from the audience at the session asked some great questions about salvation and grace, and about the Spirit's empowerment in our good works.
This afternoon, Pope Benedict arrived in Sydney Harbour, and thousands of us young people welcomed him as he greeted us. The Holy Father also spoke a bit about the necessity of the Holy Spirit's animation in our works on earth. The Holy Father praised efforts toward sustainable development, social justice, and responsible use of natural resources, while emphasizing that all these concerns are most necessary and most supported when our efforts are focused toward Christ. He is our reason! These are the things that concern young people, here in Australia and around the world, and it is so refreshing and encouraging to hear our holy shepherds advise us on how to give our concerns to Christ and to serve Him in them.
Socially, these days have been very fun, too. Yesterday I went to see an old friend at her campus at the Australian Catholic University. ACU was having a special festival with talks and videos, cultural dance performances, and lots of opportunities to create and admire art. It was really neat to see what was going on. Today, we walked with crowds of people to our spot at Barangaroo where we welcomed the Holy Father. (It wasn't actually a very far distance, but we were routed special ways to keep organized). Everyone was in such good spirits, continuing to sing, to cheer with each other, and to learn more about our brothers and sisters from other nations. We've been blessed with beautiful weather this whole time. The people of Sydney continue to be gracious and generous as they host us in their city.
As Bishop Grech reminded us today, World Youth Day is not about seeing the Pope, though that is important, or meeting other young Christians, though that is important, too. It is about each of us meeting Christ.
I'm looking forward to the adventures ahead. Indeed, with the Lord it is quite a blessed adventure!