WOW! It is happening! The spirit of joy and expectation is palpable. It's amazing to see our Sisters in hyper-drive passing out info on the Love and Life Site and funky square pins and stickers with the Love and Life logo on them to everyone and anyone. Sr. Loretto Michael is my favorite when it comes to street evangelization. I get the feeling she's hosting a continual street party, greeting the guests (whether or not they know they've been invited) and welcoming them with genuine gladness - and an expectation that they are equally glad to meet her, their gracious hostess. It never fails to astound me how relational Jesus desires us to be - sincere interest in the other opens doors to grace that would otherwise be unimaginable. This was clearly evident as we made our way to the opening Mass at Barangaroo on Tuesday afternoon. The Sisters joined a joyful river of pilgrims making their way through the city of Sydney, mixing and mingling with Sydney-siders (locals). Sr. Gemma handed a palm card to two young women who began walking beside us and told a bit about themselves. Both students from mainland China studying in Sydney, they had neither been baptized, and knew very little about Christianity but wanted to know more. One asked us to explain what we believe to them. As I started speaking about Jesus, it quickly became evident that it was back to the basics. And so, as we approached the gates to Barangaroo, we covered a whole lot of ground: we told how there is One God, creator of all, who revealed Himself to Abraham. We spoke of the reality of sin and the need for redemption. We spoke of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit and Eternal Life. Words that normally fly around Catholic circles (and convents) with familiarity suddenly were met with blank stares and as I did my best to translate them into readily accessible language I realized again - if it weren't true, Christianity would be simply unbelievable! Still entrenched in conversation, we miraculously walked through the gates without anyone noticing that our two Chinese guests did not have registrations. And what a sight greeted us: Beautiful music pumped out over the loudspeakers, thousands upon thousands of faces from every nation, every tribe, smiling in the sun, flags waving, greetings being exchanged with obvious joy: whose heart wouldn't soar? In the midst of sensibly soaking in the festive atmosphere, our guests continued asking questions: why World Youth Day? What do you mean that Jesus is alive? What is the Pope? And then Mass began - the party stopped and everyone turned to worship. Everyone around us, from literally everywhere in the world (we had Africans, Pacific Islanders, Koreans, Poles, Italians and South Americans surrounding us) grew silent. Sr. Gemma and I walked through the Mass with our guests, explaining each part and what was happening. As we did so, the depth of the greatness of our God and the gift of our Church became more and more magnified-- to me. How beautiful and tender is Jesus, how great His love for us, that He who is so "Other," so sovereign, makes Himself not just one of us, but desires to come into our bodies in the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist making us true temples of God, forever restoring us in His Life. I had no idea how our new found friends were responding, but I knew I was falling even more deeply in love with Jesus and the Church, my heart burning within me! At the end of Mass, I turned to them and saw that tears were streaming down their faces. When they hugged us good-bye I thought they wouldn't let go. What a blessing they were to us, and it all started with a little palm card.
During his homily at the Opening Mass, Cardinal Pell offered a beautiful invitation for everyone present, wherever they were in the faith journey. His invitation? Take the next step. Trust, and go deeper. These are words for us all during these grace-filled days of World Youth Day. The Holy Spirit is pouring out His Life here in Sydney. But His Life and this outpouring is not just for those of us in Sydney but for the whole Church. Let us take Cardinal Pell's words to heart: what is that next step we must take to enter the Heart of Jesus more deeply, to receive His Love more purely, to surrender to Him more perfectly? He wants to give us life, and life in abundance. Let the fire fall!
- Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV