Nov 10, 2008

Retreat Talk - "What do you seek? Come and See" - Given to the Men's Retreat for the University of Dallas - Rome Campus - Nov 7, 2008.

Given at the Casa Divin Maestro Retreat Centre, Lake Albano.


A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

John 1:35-42


John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).


What do you seek?

What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? What is life all about? Who am I? How did we come to be here? Why am I live? Is there a God? Who is this Jesus Christ? What’s the point? What’s the point of anything?


My friends, these questions, and one’s like them are asked everyday, often by young people like yourselves. In fact, many philosophers and theologians have written about how an essential element of becoming an adult is questioning the reasons for what we see, for what we experience, what we learn, what we love.


I am sure that many of us in this chapel, at some stage in our life, maybe recently, maybe even during this weekend, have asked ourselves the question: “What am I to do with my life?” and some of us will hopefully ask: “What does God want me to do with my life.”

Some people think they know the purpose of life and what they are meant to become at a very early stage in life. But for others, and I think for most of us, it takes a long time to really answer the great questions of life.


I would hope and pray that each of us every day can say: “God your will is my will. Help me to understand your will for my life.”


Who am I? What is the purpose? What do I seek?


Pope Benedict XVI recently visited my home town of Sydney for World Youth Day in July of 2008. While he was in Sydney he spoke to young people about seeking purpose and meaning in life.

He said:

“What does it really mean to be “alive”, to live life to the full? This is what all of us want, especially when we are young, and it is what Christ wants for us. In fact, he said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

The Church and the message of Christ is not limited only to a building, a community, or to working for social justice, political change, freedom, education, families, peace and so on.

The Church and the message of Christ – and ultimately relationship with Christ is about absolutely everything involved in life.

It is about sport, art, creativity, imagination, social change, families, the work place, environmental concerns, education, and so on.

Being fully alive is being a good Christian. A good Christian is not boring, lifeless, lacking fun and enjoyment. A good Christian knows how to have a good time and knows how to be fully alive.

In 1st semester 2008-2009, I studied a subject titled: “A Drink Called Happiness.” The classed discussed the essential place of fun, laughter and joy within the Christian life. The professor in fact even traced the discussion of whether Christ actually laughed and joked, and he believed he did. My professor believed that too often people are too serious with themselves and we all need to enjoy life a little more. One of his favourite words, was “frivolity.”


One of the great theologians of the 2nd century AD was the bishop of Lyon, St Irenaeus. For me he is one of the great inspirations for what it means to a Catholic and to be a follower of Christ.

He said: “The Glory of God is a man fully alive, a man fully alive is the vision of God.”


What are we seeking? Have you ever thought about where you will be in 10 years? Have you ever thought about the greater meaning of life, a life lived for the glory of God?

Pope Benedict said: “The most basic instinct of all living things is to stay alive, to grow, to flourish, and to pass on the gift of life to others. So it is only natural that we should ask how best to do this.”


So my friends, tonight begin to seek the answer to the question “what is the meaning of life” for you. Begin to pray about the great questions in your life and the great questions that each of us have. Unfortunately many adults never think or spend time praying about the greater questions in life, especially as teenagers and especially as young adults. For many adults, they are easily caught up in the routine of life: finish school, go to college, get a job, make money, find a wife, get married, have children, and unfortunately by the time they get to 45, they ask themselves, “who am I? What am I doing?” And what happens next? A change of job, a change a career, and change a wife, and so on?

They often try to find meaning, but it is often too late – they may have shut out God, shut of true love and service of others.


Pope Benedict said: “When we love we are fulfilling our deepest need and we are becoming most fully ourselves, most fully human. Loving is what we are programmed to do, what we were designed for by our Creator. Naturally, I am not talking about fleeting, shallow relationships, I am talking about real love, the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk 12:30-31). This, if you like, is the programme that is hard-wired into every human person, if only we had the wisdom and generosity to live by it, if only we were ready to sacrifice our own preferences so as to be of service to others, to give our lives for the good of others, and above all for Jesus, who loved us and gave his life for us. That is what human beings are called to do, that is what it means to be truly alive.”


What is love? It is far more than a heated night of passion. Three words encapsulate what love is, and it is written on the altar and the wall behind us – Love is the via, veritas et vita – “the way, the truth and the life.”


Love, my friends, gives us meaning, gives us purpose and through love we become who we are called to be.

One of the most studied philosophers of all time wrote: “I think therefore I am.” I wish to propose an understanding based upon Descartes philosophical quote. Instead of finding meaning through purpose. The phrase should be: “I love therefore I am.”

Many of you I am sure have studied Pope Benedict’s encyclical: Deus Caritas Est: “God is Love”. My friends, each and everyone of us is made in the image and likeness of God, and so it is through loving that we actually become who we are meant to be.


Jesus has “come that we may have life, and have it to the full.” Let us seek the answers to the great questions to life. Let us ask these questions of Jesus, as the disciples asked questions of Jesus in the Gospel we heard this evening.


The disciples followed Jesus. We too must do the same.

Jesus asked the disciples: “What do you seek?” And they respond at first, not with the great questions of life, but with a down to earth, human question: “Where are you staying?”

Tonight, begin with the most basic questions about location, identity, and from there, Come to Jesus, experience his life and his ways and receive the fullness of life.


My friends, to guide your prayer this evening and tomorrow, I recommend three things:

1. Take the passage from John 1:35-42 and read it carefully. Imagine that you are in the scene, perhaps as one of the disciples. Imagine what they had been doing before coming to Jesus, imagine the feeling, the nervousness of coming and talking to Jesus. Imagine that Jesus invited you to come and spend a day with him, speaking with him, asking questions, telling him about your life and your hopes and dreams for the future.


As you reflect on your life so far, and the gifts, talents and experiences that you have received, imagine what God and others would call you. Jesus gave Simon a new name – Peter or the Rock.

2. Imagine the name you will be given by Christ.

What name will other people call you? 

Are you a rock? A warrior? A builder? A nurturer? A thinker? A protector? Names tell us a great deal.


3. As you think about this tonight and tomorrow, begin to pray about how you want people to remember you in 10 years, 20 years and 50 years time. Start to think about how you would account for your life – for the good things and the not so good things in your life.

In some places in the world a Eulogy is given at the end of the Funeral Mass or at the reception afterwards, and often friends or members of the family get up and speak about some of the qualities of the person. Unfortunately I have seen some funerals where very few positive qualities are mentioned.

I want to encourage each of you to reflect about how you would like to be remembered at your funeral – so in essence, write you own eulogy. What things would you like your friends, family and even God to remember of your life?


Imagine if you tragically died in 5 years time – what would you be remembered for?

Imagine if you tragically died in 20 years time – what would you be remembered for?

And imagine if you lived a long life – what would you be remembered for?


If money and wealth, success and prestige, power and strength are the most important things in your life, then I presume that this will be reflected in the words spoken about you after your life.


But if love, life, freedom, relationship with God, service, holiness and sanctity are some of things that you want people to remember you for, then now is the time to begin to make your decision to be fully alive with Christ. Now is the time to conform your life to Jesus Christ.

Becoming a saint requires action every day and every moment we are alive. God won’t force us to be saints and he definitely won’t force to enter into His Kingdom if we don’t want to.


Pope Benedict said: “Let his gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the sacraments, and thus be a source of inspiration and help to those around you. In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God’s love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness.


What do you seek?                                                                            

Let us seek to be saints. Let us thirst for truth and hunger for virtue. Let us marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential!

Let us “Come and See” the great things that Jesus is offering to us.

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