The following homily was preached by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli at the annual Mass of St Patrick for Schools at St Patrick's Cathedral on Friday 17 March.
As you can plainly see, I’m over the age of 16. As you can also see, I’m standing. At the risk of being a fool (for Christ’s sake), and asking others to join me in my foolishness, can I now ask that anyone here today who is 16 years old or over, to please stand. Thank you.
At the age of 16, St Patrick was taken into slavery. It triggered all that would follow in his life, for it was then that he found friendship with God, and began to live the way of missionary discipleship. This decision would eventually lead him to Ireland and the conversion of it peoples to the Christian faith.
Sixteen is a young age, isn’t it? For those of us standing, think back to what it was like being 16, and the decisions we were making then. For those of you who are around that age, think of what it might be like if you were taking decisions for the rest of your life right now. This is what Patrick was doing at 16.
His journey from that age gradually unfolded for him, but it is important that we acknowledge that he didn’t know what was coming and where it would lead. What Patrick did do at 16 was to say ‘yes’ to God, and to place his trust in him. We, today, are the beneficiaries of this.
Without Patrick’s 16-year-old ‘yes’, and without the Christian faith that has been handed on down through the centuries and across the oceans to us, our gathering here as Christian disciples in the mission of Catholic education would not have happened. (Please be seated.)
Can I now ask those who are under 16 years of age to stand? You can be like Patrick, even at your younger ages. Jeremiah, the prophet we heard about in our first reading just now, was a child, probably an adolescent, when God called him to be his voice and messenger among the people.
We hear how Jeremiah tried to get out of it—‘Ah Lord, I can’t speak properly’—but God would have none of it. God trusted Jeremiah. ‘Do not be afraid’ was the Lord’s encouragement to him. God says the same to you. (Please sit.)
To all of us, over or under 16, God always makes the first move. God opened Patrick’s heart; God opened Jeremiah’s mouth. God entrusted to them his life and message; God trusted them. And from that entrustment, Jeremiah and Patrick learned to trust, and they each found a way of walking with God for the rest of their lives.
God trusts you. Jesus trusts you. The Spirit is saying to each of us, ‘Go out, and tell the good news.’ We can do this, wherever we are and however old we are. We can do it with words from God that bring life, and by actions like Jesus’ that attend to the good of one another. God trusts in us, like he trusted in Jeremiah and the 72 disciples Jesus sent, and Paul and Barnabas speaking to the Gentiles, and like he trusted in Patrick.
Our part is to lean into this trust, and let God do the rest. It is for us to respond simply and humbly to God’s entrustment with five small words: Jesus, I trust in you.
Happy St Patrick’s day.
Banner image: Shrine to St Patrick, in St Patrick’s Church, a Dominican church in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP.)