Addresses and Statements


12 Sep 2022

Waterview, Homebush 7 September 2022

I’m delighted to see so many faithful and joyful young people here today! Many say religious beliefs and values are out of favour with young people, that they’ve given up on God, and that while some are willing to volunteer for a bit for a good cause, they’ve largely moved on from those more idealistic days. Young people, the pundits claim, are more interested in getting ahead, having a series of short-term relationships, recreational sex, and other pleasant if passing experiences, accumulating devices, e-friends and likes; they’re not interested in any bigger picture of God, the universe and everything, of the virtuous person, the good life and themselves. Well, 750 young people here today say otherwise! 750 of you are proof that faith and ideals are alive and well in the young hearts of Sydney. Thank you all for being part of this fantastic initiative of Sydney Catholic Youth, Sydney Catholic Schools, the Life, Marriage and Family Office, and our evangelisation project Go Make Disciples.

FOMO, as you digital natives know better than I, is an acronym for “fear of missing out”. It captures the irrational anxiety that others have access to all sorts of fun which we are missing out on while we’re stuck in the dreary same-old; the equally irrational thought that if we say yes to an ideal, person or event, we’ll miss out when something better; and the especially irrational result that we commit to nothing so as to keep our options open. When I was your age we were free of computerised devices, mobile phones, internet, the social media… which meant we didn’t experience the help, distractions or pressures of infinite information at our fingertips, instant messaging of love or bullying, endless imagery of people showing off their supposedly wonderful activities, purchases or appearance. No wonder people go FOMO!

No wonder—but still it is irrational. The fact is that much of the information that feeds this anxiety is fake, the messages are spin, the images selected and edited to look better than they really are. Such curated realities are manipulations, designed to make us feel self-satisfied or self-loathing, envious, indignant or whatever. What’s worse, FOMO culture reduces lives, aspirations, people to how much fun they are having, how many fancy things they’ve got, how many social media contacts and thumbs-up—none of which really satisfies us. The highs pass quickly, we flit from this to that, but deep down we yearn for more.

From time immemorial people have asked: “What is the good life, happiness, blessedness?” Great philosophers said it’s about the quest for wisdom, or pleasure, or virtue, or nature. It’s about doing your duty, pursuing life and liberty, promoting the best for the most, or seeking meaningful labour and leisure. Today they say it’s about personal goals and tribal loyalties. Ask Grandma and she says it’s about being civil, diligent, moderate and kind. We could ask the First Australians, our best artists, the pop culture, the self-help experts: there are many places to go for wisdom…

Which brings me to Jesus who in John 10:10 said: I came that you might have life, life to the full. The Christian conception of abundant life is heir to or has shaped many of those philosophies I’ve cited. It incorporates elements of all good thinking, while interrogating, purifying and integrating them through faith and reason. It rejects reductionist accounts that treat you guys as mere animals with instincts, or brains without feelings, or hearts without intelligence, or consumers of products, or preference satisfaction machines… Anyone who has joined a programme like 10:10 clearly thinks there’s more to them than that!

Christian answers begin with the opening lines of the Bible, where a God of infinite goodness shares all that He is, creating us in His own image (Gen 1:27). So we are hardwired to be ‘God-like’. This doesn’t mean we have special powers, like Marvel superheroes. But it does mean there’s a space deep within us that can only be filled by God; that only by drawing close to Him will we be fully human and alive and ourselves. Put simply: without God we are incomplete.

The next thing the Bible points out is that it is not good for us to be alone (Gen 2:18). We are made for relationship, friendship, for communion with God and others. And so God created us in two kinds, “male and female He created them” and said we should pair and “cleave”, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:27-28; 2:24; 5:2; cf. Mt 19:5). As our first parents married and founded a family, so too they set about naming and cultivating and choosing things. So we learn that to be God-like is to be made not only for love, but for truth and beauty and goodness. Put simply: without love, knowledge, art and morality we might be high-achievers but we will not be fulfilled. How then are we to find and draw close to God? How are we to find the right friends, ideals and projects? Who or what should I invest myself in?

Thankfully, we have the best of guides in Jesus. God’s love is so abundant He not only makes us in His image, He makes Himself in our image. As Jesus He walks and talks with us as one of us, teaching, healing and encouraging us, laying down His life for us. He does all this so we may be the children of God we were created to be, and so have “life to the full”.

There are many competing versions of the good, abundant, blessed life on the smorgasbord of ideas, and many counterfeits. So, what does Jesus mean by fullness of life? Well, He challenges superficial views: “Don’t be worrying about your life, what you’ll eat or drink or wear. Your life is so much more than food, your body so much more than clothes. Look at the birds of the air… your heavenly Father feeds them… and you are worth so much more… Look at the lilies of the field: they neither labour nor manufacture, yet are more splendidly dressed than King Solomon… how much more so will God look after you? So, seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given you.” (Mt 6:25-33; cf. Jn 6:27)

So, life is more than gadgets, fashions and material things; fussing about them can be distracting or strangle your higher ideals. The good life, Jesus teaches, is life with God, begun in this world but stretching out into infinity in the next. In His beatitudes He tells us that the poor, grieving, humble and oppressed, the merciful, pure-hearted, peacemaking and justice-seeking might have their challenges but are actually the happy ones. We have to be willing to forego some of the creature comforts, our selfishness, maybe even life itself, for Christ’s sake in order to gain back what’s good abundantly. Jesus is the author of life, door of life, word of life, bread of life, living water. He gives His life so we might have it in abundance, and those who believe in Him have eternal life. He is “the Resurrection and the Life”, “the Way, the Truth and the Life”.[1]

So, when Jesus talks about abundant life, He’s offering so much more than the culture. His kind of capital-L Life isn’t fleeting, doesn’t go out of fashion, won’t be replaced by a software upgrade: it’s deep and lasting. His kind of Life isn’t self-absorbed or superficial, but goes out and seeks the good of others. His kind of Life doesn’t use our own or each other’s bodies recreationally, but treats sexuality and relationships with reverence. His kind of Life isn’t about status, wealth or accolades but mission, principles and integrity. And if we have experienced something of that Life, we know others need it too. Jesus’ kind of Life is for communicating, for sharing!

In his first homily as pope, Benedict XVI said: “Only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, loved, ‘necessary’. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. Nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.”[2] And in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis echoed this: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”[3]

So don’t be a FOMO, too anxious to seek what’s true and good and beautiful and so missing out on salvation. Don’t be a FOMO who bombs out on life to the full, neglecting the chances to hear God’s Word and receive the grace of the Sacraments. Don’t be a FOMO who forgoes eternal life by failing to commit to the One who is Life-to-the-Full. I pray that you, my young friends, will find and live the good life, encountering Christ and bringing His love to all.

God loves you. The Church loves you. The archbishop loves you. God bless you all!

[1] Life is more than material things and fussing about them is distracting and can strangle higher ideals: Mk 8:37; Lk 8:14; 12:15; 14:26; 21:34. The “hard way” of the beatitudes and foregoing comforts, even life, for Christ’s sake: Mt 5:1-12; 7:14; 10:39; 16:25-26; 18:8-9; 19:29; Jn 12:25. Jesus is the author of life, door of life, word of life, bread of life, the living water: Jn 4:14;6:33-68; 10:7; 12:50; Acts 3:15. Jesus gives His life for us: Mt 20:28; Jn 10:10-28; 15:13 etc.. Those who believe in Him have eternal life: Jn 3:15-16,36; 5:24-29,39-40; 6:40,47,54,60; 10:10,28; 17:2-3. He is “the Resurrection and the Life”, “the Way, the Truth and the Life”: Mt 19:16-17; 25:46; Lk 10:25; 18:30; Jn 1:4; 4:36; 8:12; 11:25,38; 14:6; 20:31.