Homily - Youth and Young Adult Pilgrimage
Today, in our walking, in our friendship, in our prayers and in the celebration of this Eucharist we remember the person who has done more to shape our world during these last two millennia that any other.
Today we gather as disciples of Jesus
to remember the cross,
to remember the resurrection,
to pray in gratitude for the freedom of salvation.
And the word we hear so much on Palm Sunday is this… Hosanna!
There were crowds ahead of Jesus, and crowds behind him shouting, "Hosanna!"
Now, Hosanna is a word we do not use very often these days. We say or sing it in the Holy, Holy, Holy of the Eucharist, but not much otherwise.
It was first a Hebrew term meaning, "Grant your salvation!" or "Save us"
By the time that Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem in today’s reading, Hosanna was an acclamation...an exultant greeting.
"Hosanna!" The crowd shouted.
And Jesus made his way to Jerusalem.
There are those who surround each one of you today.
People from the media who came to hear your stories.
Friends from your parish or school who are with you today.
Your parents, who may have encouraged you to be here today.
Your youth ministers, campus ministers, religion teachers, principals who invited you here.
Bishop Bennett and our guest musician Danny Langdon who came to spend the day with you.
Priests and deacons and seminarians who have joined in.
It is so popular to follow Jesus today. Jesus made this week’s cover of Newsweek Magazine.
Somehow, it is easy to be a Catholic today when the crowd is with you, shouting to you, encouraging you.
Today, you have arrived in triumph, not in Jerusalem, but in Baltimore. And the crowd is with you.
This week is the holiest week of the Church year. That is why I want to be here with you.
And this week, you will learn a lot about crowds.
Sometimes, the crowds were with Jesus…as we heard in the first Gospel today.
And sometimes, they turned on him, or abandoned him.
Jesus was able to survive the ups and downs that came with crowds because he stayed in prayerful contact with his Father. "Your will be done."
Today, the crowd is with you.
But what about tomorrow, or the next day, when they begin to taunt you?
What about when the crowds begin to challenge basic life values?
What about the crowds who claim that a "right to privacy" takes precedence over the most basic of rights, the right to life?
What about the crowds who press for partial birth abortion, virtual infanticide, as a woman’s right to choose when our values clearly say, "Choose life?"
Where will you be when the crowds encourage doctors to commit what they call mercy killing, and our values clearly say that these doctors of death are killing mercy?
Where will you be when the crowds that you hang with make remarks that devalue a person, with crude or biting comments?
Where will you be when those around you say that your values are old-fashioned, your morals are hang-ups, your virtue is up for grabs.
Where will you be when our neighbors strike out in violence against those who they will not tolerate?
How many of you might know who James Byrd Jr. is?
He is the 49 year old black man who was dragged to death in Texas because of his race.
You know that those who attack others because of race are closing their eyes to a central truth that you and I believe. No matter what the color of our skin, all are brothers and sisters, because all are children of one heavenly Father, all equally redeemed by the blood of Jesus shed for us upon the cross.
How many of you know who Matthew Shepard is?
He is the young man who was tied to a fence, beaten and left to die because he was homosexual.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about homosexuals:
"They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided"
How many of you know who Dr. Barnette Slepian is?
He is the doctor who was murdered in Amherst New York because he provided abortions?
Those who commit abortion, striking at God’s sacred gift of life, innocent and defenseless, are depriving the unborn of that most basic right, the right to life itself. But even if thereby they become in some sense enemies to the culture of life, they still have their own basic right to life. We have no right to inflict violence As followers of Jesus we are given this command: "… love your enemies, pray for your persecutors."
Where will you be when the crowds strike out in violence at those they will not tolerate. Where will you be when our neighbors choose capital punishment as an appropriate response to such terrible crimes. Our Holy Father this past January in St. Louis clearly taught us a lesson. .He said "I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."
On Good Friday we remember the violent death of Jesus who was crucified by a crowd who could no longer tolerate his unconditional love and his call for justice and for holiness in life.
Prayerful sensitivity, not violence is the response of people of faith.
You will experience the crowds that turn against you.
You will experience times when the same people that shout Hosanna! one day are shouting "crucify him" the next.
Remember that Jesus experienced this before you. He knew what it was like to have friends abandon him, crowds turn against him, people spit at him, followers deny him.
As disciples, you will experience this as well. But you will also experience the strength of the Church, the great gift of Jesus. You will experience solidarity with the 7000 young people who have signed the pledge that "true love waits."
You will encounter the commitment made by 7 of our men in the Archdiocese who will, please God, be ordained to the priesthood this June.
You will come into contact with youth ministers, campus ministers, and teachers who choose mission over money, who are dedicated to serving you, and are ready to stand by you in your commitment.
You will meet in Bishop Bennett, Bishop Murphy and Bishop Newman, people who have profound commitments to the young Church of Baltimore.
As a sign of my confidence in you, I have issued regulations that, beginning today, allows young people 16 years of age, who have been confirmed and are continuing their own faith formation to serve as special ministers of the Eucharist at their parish.
In following Jesus, sometimes the crowd will be with you, sometimes, the crowd will be against you.
Jesus asks us to remember, "I am with you always."
Jesus promises that he will never leave us. With God’s grace, we make that same promise to him.