My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I said, it is great to be with all of you this morning! Early in the morning — at least for me — for you it’s not early because you probably got up really early this morning.
So thank you for being here and coming to Youth Day at Religious Education Congress 2019. As you can see it’s too early for me so I’m not sure what I’m saying.
Lent is a beautiful time. The 40 days of Lent is a time of conversion, penance, purification. A special time in the liturgy of the Church. So it’s good that we are together, especially for the celebration of Mass.
The readings we heard this morning are challenging, aren’t they? And as I was reflecting on the Gospel that we just heard, the story of Lazarus and the rich man, I was thinking that this a story that as sad as it is, is still going on in our society today.
In our society, we see the extremes of wealth and poverty, just as in the passage of the Gospel. We see people who are very rich and people who are very poor. In fact, and I am sure that you know, every night in Los Angeles there are more than 50,000 people who do not have a place to live — homeless — and who are hungry and living on the streets, just like Lazarus.
In the Gospel today, we see the tender love that God our Father has for Lazarus. And he calls us to have a great love for the poor.
God loves the rich man, too, but the rich man has a different fate than Lazarus, as we heard.
In the Gospel today, we can see that this rich man trusted in his riches. He had a nice home, he dressed in beautiful clothes and ate big meals.
The rich man thought that having all those material things and pleasures was all he needed to be happy. But his heart was closed. He turned away from God and he turned away from the poor, even though Lazarus was starving right outside his door.
And my dear brothers and sisters, this is a temptation for all of us.
Because when we get comfortable — when we have a roof over our heads, when we have enough to eat, when we have some money and even a good phone and maybe an unlimited data plan — we can start to think, “Hey, I’ve got what I need! I’m doing pretty good for myself!”
And this is what the prophet Jeremiah is talking about in the first reading today. He’s warning us about thinking this way. He says:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
They are challenging words, but they are true. When things are going good, when we have the things we need, it is easy to forget about God or to think that we don’t need God.
But, again, the point is not about how much money we have. The point is this and maybe you can reflect on it today — what is our attitude toward life? Do we really want to trust in God or are we trying to control everything and do things by ourselves?
The prophet also tells us today, as we were singing it in the responsorial psalm:
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose hope is in the Lord.
Blessed! That means we will find happiness if we put our trust in the Lord, in God. And as you know, that is the theme of this Youth Day, “Trust, God’s Gotchu!”
I’m happy that I was able to pronounce it in the right way, I hope. I’m too old for that.
But my dear brothers and sisters, your life is so important to God! He has a plan for you, he has a beautiful dream for your life. And he shows that in sending Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus shows us how God wants us to live, he shows us the way to find true happiness in our lives.
Believe me, God wants great things for you — and he wants great things from you! But everything starts, my dear brothers and sisters, with Jesus. We need to believe in him, we need to trust in the Lord!
And it’s something that we always see in the life of the saints.
Do you know about St. Lorenzo Ruiz? Not too much, huh? Alright, he was a Filipino, the first saint of the Philippines. He was born near Manilla in the 17th century.
His parents were faithful Catholics, and growing up Lorenzo was an altar boy and he loved the Rosary. Later he worked for the Church, married a woman named Rosario, and they had three children.
But then, at some point, he was accused of a crime that he did not commit. And at that time, the Philippines was ruled by Spain, and Lorenzo felt that as a Filipino, he would never get a fair trial.
So, with the police looking for him, and in the middle of the night, he said goodbye to his wife and children, and hopped on a boat with some Dominican missionary priests who were going to Japan.
The trip took three months and it was very dangerous. They survived a monsoon. And when they finally arrived, they were immediately arrested for the “crime” of being Christians.
The Japanese kept Lorenzo and the other missionaries in jail for a year. They were tortured in many cruel and horrible ways.
But then persecutors told Lorenzo he could go free if he would just step on pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and say he was no longer a Christian.
But Lorenzo refused. He said:
“That I will never do, because I am a Christian. And I shall die for God and for Him I will give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so do with me as you please.”2
He gave his life for God.
So what we see in the life of St. Lorenzo Ruiz — as in many saints — is total trust in Jesus Christ.
He trusted in God, even when his life did not seem fair — even when he faced death for a crime he didn’t commit, even when he was being tortured and killed just for being a Christian.
He trusted that Jesus was with him, and Jesus gave him great strength.
When I think of my own vocation — why I am here — I always give thanks to God because in my family and in my formation, I always see that people were trusting in God. That’s what makes the difference in our lives and that’s what God is asking each one of you today to do. To trust in God. To trust in him.
So let’s ask for that grace today — trust, God’s gotchu — that’s a beautiful message for all of us today so let’s ask for the grace to open our hearts to the love of God and to see that our life is going to be the happiest life that we can imagine if we really trust in God.
And this Lenten season is the great opportunity — and this youth day is a great opportunity — to especially have the peace of knowing that we trust God and we can have a joyful, a happy life.
Let’s ask Mary our Blessed Mother for her intercession that we all, especially during this Lenten season, put all our trust in God.