Youth Challenge Week 1: The Cross

(Homily for Twentieth Ordinary Sunday Year C)

Message: Baptism challenges us to embrace the cross.

I had the blessing of participating in World Youth Day with 14 delegates from our parish, a couple hundred from the Archdiocese and over a million young people from 187 countries. In the next weeks I will share some of that experience with you. It will help us as we look forward to a new school year - and it will illustrate the Gospel readings.

Today's Gospel focuses on the cross. Jesus speaks about his baptism: that is, his passion and death. St. Paul says that he endures the cross for the sake of the joy that lies ahead.

World Youth Day is a privileged experience - a great blessing - but it does involve some shared suffering: a lot of walking under hot sun or drenching rain; waiting - sometimes long waits, for example, when our bus broke down and we spent several hours at a service station whose rest room didn't work. That wait did give the opportunity to celebrate Mass on the service station grounds.

Shared experiences, especially shared suffering if accepted patiently can bring people together. The cross unites us.

Bishop Robert Barron spoke to young people about the cross. In the Night of Mercy he led us in Eucharistic Adoration. He challenged us to embrace the cross. He used the example of Fr. Jacques Hamel who ISIS terrorists murdered a few days before. Bishop Barron observed that the twentieth century had more Christian martyrs than the other centuries combined.

Today in fact is the 75th anniversary of one of the most famous martyrs. If you visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp you see scenes of the worst human darkness. But you also see one scene of astounding brightness: the spot where a Franciscan friar named Maximilian Kolbe gave his life in place of a condemned man. Outside the starvation bunker where he spent his last ten days they have a placard with Kolbe's picture and a description of his heroic act. He died on August 14, 1941. Franciszek Gajowniczek, whose life he saved, survived Auschwitz and until his death in 1995 travelled giving testimony. What St. Maximilian Kolbe did for Franciszek, Jesus has done for you and me.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is one of a vast throng of modern martyrs. That martyrdom continues as the example of Fr. Jacques Hamel shows. These martyrs, most of them obscured by sheer numbers, remind us of something we easily forget: Even though we have not suffered as others have, we will not have fulfillment or peace apart from the cross.

Pope Francis spoke powerfully about that in his homily to youth. He described the three great obstacles we face in trying to follow Jesus - and how to overcome those obstacles. I will save that for next week.

Today I want to underscore the "baptism" of Jesus - his cross. You know, because of our bus breaking down, our delegation didn't get to visit Auschwitz* but instead we went to Wadowice - the church where St. John Paul was baptized. His heroic life challenges us to live the meaning of our baptism. Baptism challenges us to embrace the cross. "There is a baptism with which I must be baptized and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!" Amen.


*I spent a few extra days in Krakow and did have the opportunity to visit that sobering site. Homilies related to Pope Francis & World Youth Day:

July 24, 2016: Pope Francis & Youth Week 1: Faith & the Possibility of Forgiveness
July 31, 2016: Pope Francis & Youth Week 2: Stop Being Wishy-Washy
August 6, 2016: Pope Francis & Youth Week 3: Be Prepared for Martyrdom

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Twentieth Sunday, Year C):

2013: Run the Race
2007: Baptism of Anguish
2001: I Have Not Come To Establish Peace
1998: I Have Come for Division

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

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Bishop Bob Barron's Homilies

Fr. Brad's Homilies

Fr. Jim's Homilies

Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

World Youth Day 2013

(about 40 pictures in a slide show)

World Youth Day 2011

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru