By Bishop Gerald Barnes
The following is taken from Bishop Barnes’ homily at the World Youth Day Send-off Mass held at Our Lady of Hope Church in San Bernardino on January 12.
The day is coming fast. The year has passed. The year of thinking, of planning, of worrying, of wondering, of fundraising, of learning and of praying.
And now is time to get ready to go. It’s almost here. And we are here as members of the Diocese, families and parishes to share with you this important, important time in the life of your faith. Our prayers are with you. Our good wishes are there and so are our blessings. We are together with you. And what a day to have this send-off Mass.
What a day to celebrate - The Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus. We just heard it proclaimed that John is baptizing and Jesus comes…sees the crowd that’s being baptized, and we know that John was an important figure at that time. John was baptizing and reminding people that they needed to change their ways. They needed to ask for forgiveness. Some people were confused as to what he was going to bring. Some thought he was going to be the Messiah and he said, “No.” And Jesus appears. And Jesus was baptized. And as Jesus is praying, we hear that a spirit enters in Him and a voice is heard that says “You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.”
Jesus is baptized, and the spirit comes upon Him. And when we celebrate a day like today - The Baptism of the Lord, we have to remember our own baptism.
We were baptized into Christ. We had water poured over us and the deacon or priest that baptized us said, “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy.”
You see, we were baptized into a community of faith – baptized and we’re tied or linked to one another. The roots of our faith, which is in our baptism, ties us to each other. We are a community. And that’s what we are here for. You’re going to Panama, but the community is with you. You don’t go alone. We are members of that same body of Christ. And Jesus had a mission...to bring justice...to take those who were captive, whatever kind captivity, and to set them free. His mission was to open the eyes to make clear to those who couldn’t see...to bring this kind of freedom, freedom of God to all. We are called to that same mission - to live the Gospel. With freedom and justice, to bring light so that people do not forget who we are. They live in hope because they are children of God.
Do not forget who you are. You are a child of God. And you go knowing that.
We are people who are always on pilgrimage. Always on the move. Carrying the mission that God has entrusted us into the world. And so, you are going to Panama, you’re going to World Youth Day, but you are not going as tourists, you are going as believers.
You are pilgrims in this part of your journey and you go as beloved children of God. To meet other pilgrims. Others who have been baptized, others who are beloved of God. You go to meet them. You go to encounter the Lord Jesus, with others who gather in His name.
You go as believers to meet again the Christ, who lives in other people, in other cultures and all over the world.
Sometimes we have the attitude that we are better than other people. We are coming from, after all, the Diocese of San Bernardino. You can’t do better than that [LAUGHS]. We’re coming from California. We’re coming from the United States. But we don’t go as pilgrims who are better than anyone else. We go as pilgrims who are servants of other people. We go to learn from others. We go to share with others. We go to listen to others. We go to pray with others. We go to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ and we take Him with us, so that others can meet Him in us. Because we are His beloved children. So go and listen, go and share who we are as a church. That people know what our challenges are and what our blessings are.
You’re going to leave as believers that went to see Pope Francis. When you see him, tell him I said, “hello.” [LAUGHS]. Tell him that we love him. But you’re going to come back after the experience, after the encounter with the Lord. After going as one who is willing to do His will. You come back again blessed by the Lord remembering who you are, His beloved and you come back to continue the pilgrimage.
Siempre Adelante. Going forward, bringing that first reading into being in the schools, in your families, in our church, in our country. So that those in the darkness might see. Those that are unhappy about any kind of ailment, any kind of emotional trauma, any kind of injustice are set free. You come back and carry the mission of the Lord. Renewed in your baptism. Always moving ahead. Our prayers are with you. We go with you. We will remember you. We will think of you every day that you are gone. We hope that you come back enriched in your faith, remembering who you are as beloved children of God.