I”m getting to be very familiar with the Denver airport, as I sit here once again with a snow delay. I’m headed for Indianapolis for this year’s NCYC, (National Catholic Youth Conference)where around 25,000 – 30,000 youth will gather at Lucas Oil Stadium for the next few days. I was scheduled to preside and preach at this evening’s Mass, but that will not be possible given the delay time we are now faced with. So, I’ll simply share now my thoughts on today’s feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and how it strongly relates to the lives of our youth.
I have good company here in the waiting area. There is a youth group from a parish in Colorado Springs, and a group of seminarians from Dodge City just introduced themselves. Of course, we are all headed for NCYC. I’m looking forward to joining the nearly 50 young people who left here last night from Wyoming.
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What we know about this event comes solely from the Old Testament practice dedicating firstborn males to God. (Exodus 13:12-16) At the time of Jesus, these dedications took place in the Temple. From this practice developed the tradition of bringing firstborn girls to the Temple at the time mothers came for their purification. (Leviticus 12:5-8) This practice required the woman to remain in seclusion for 80 days after giving birth, and then come to the Temple to offer a yearling lamb as a thanksgiving offering, and a pair of doves as a sin-offering.
From these early practices developed the legend that Mary was also presented in the Temple by her parents, Joachim and Ann, at the time she was three. Mary is a symbol of self-offering and dedication to God and the spiritual life.
The practice of making a gift of one’s self is central to our Christian life. Christ made a gift of Himself to all the world through the Incarnation, expressed most lovingly and completely as He offered Himself up on the cross for our redemption. Every Christian who is serious about their faith is to also make a gift of one’s self to God and to others. Our Blessed Mother gave such a gift in her free “Yes” to God’s plan to become the mother of Jesus. A mature Christian life is always lived for others, and never for self.
Just as Mary had a mission from God, so do each of us. As Mary’s mission was centered on Jesus Christ, so it is for each of us. Young people, this is your mission; a life centered on Christ and a life offered to the Other and others out of love for Christ. This mission is rooted in God’s Word, the Sacraments of the Church, and a life of charity.
Young people, let Christ accompany you in your life. He is a Friend you can always count on! As you grow in your relationship with Christ, renew each day your desire to faithfully accompany Him.
As Mary’s walk with Christ (as His first disciple) led her to stand at the foot of His cross, so our walk with Jesus will lead us to His cross. Do not be afraid of the suffering the Gospel entails. Christ will give you all you need to love Him, and He will be with you always.
Finally, young people, ask the Blessed Mary to help you know God’s mission in your life. Ask Mary to accompany you as you walk with Christ. To walk with Christ in the presence of Mary will lead to a fullness of life, and your life will indeed bear much fruit!
Thank you young people for following Christ! Our Church welcomes you and needs you!