8th Sunday of the Year (2109)
Yesterday I was at an event for young people at Wembley Arena; there was about 9,000 16-30 year olds. I thought the highlight for me was going to be listening to the words of the 90 year old Jean Vanier. I expect some of you have never heard of Jean Vanier. Well he was introduced as the leading light in the Church today. I would not disagree with that. His words of wisdom just poured out of his mouth, coming straight from his heart. Tell the young people that they are beautiful; that God loves them more than they can imagine. No wonder they applauded him at the end.
The Gospel this morning said that ‘a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart’. What fills the heart of Jean Vanier is love, and more specifically the love of God. At the end of the day, before exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, there was an Afro American from Texas, who spoke with a strong accent. He spoke fast. He was funny. He was a great communicator. His words were words of wisdom, and they came from his heart. He told the young people not to be envious of others; not to look at the gifts of others because they are, each and every one of them, God’s masterpiece; they had all the talents and gifts they needed to make a success out of their lives. They didn’t need to be envious of anyone else. And the young people loved him, gave him a standing ovation. He too like Jean Vanier, spoke the truth from his heart.
When you know you are loved, loved for who you are, when you know you are loved in spite of all your faults and failings, it gives you wings. You can fly. Such a person will be overflowing with love for others. So when they meet another and the other is praised they are so happy, not envious or jealous. They are the kind of people who will encourage someone who needs encouragement; tell someone who doubts themselves that they can do it. I am reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography, and she does this. She loves talking to young people who are struggling, who are deprived in some way, who haven’t had a good start and in life, and she tells them “yes, you can”. And, do you know what? They can. She visited a girl’s state run comprehensive in London some years ago. The girls there were struggling. She told them she believed in them. Later on she found out that there had made great improvement in their exams; their ‘C’s’ had become ‘A’s”.
Isn’t this what we should do: praise people, encourage them. Tell them that they are loved. The young especially. Sometimes young people grow up without ever being told they are loved; even by their parents. Some young people feel inadequate, insignificant and hopeless. The Pope told those who had gathered for World Youth Day in Panama that some young people “feel invisible”. And all they need is someone like us to say: “I believe in you”. “I trust you”. Then stand back and watch them grow. Love is like water to plants; without water plants won’t grow. It is like oil in an engine. A car will go much better with oil in the engine.
And all it takes is a few words of encouragement. It’s easy. And yet it’s so difficult. If it were easy then there wouldn’t be so many under achievers in our society. We, as Catholics, can be that voice for others. A person can be helped by all sorts of people, if not its parents, then a relative, a friend, a priest a nun. Surely we all know people who are down, depressed, unhappy. Maybe all they need is a kind word; something that no one has ever said to them. Then that gives them hope. And once we have hope, then we can live. Let’s use our words to make this world a better place.