Young adults from across the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland gathered the afternoon of July 30 at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe for Becoming Fire, a young adult outdoor festival.
Bishop Edward Malesic joined them to celebrate Mass under a large tent on the CPL grounds. Several other priests, including Father Mike McCandless and Father Eric Garris, vocation director and assistant director, concelebrated the liturgy.
(See photo gallery above.)
In his homily, the bishop reflected on what the teacher Qoheleth from the Book of Ecclesiastes shared in his view of life. The bishop said he had a rather pessimistic view of life, but when the entire Book of Ecclesiastes is considered, a clearer understanding of what he is teaching is revealed.
“Life without God has no hope. But with God, life opens up for us in the depth of its meaning and purpose,” the bishop explained. This is why Christians are optimistic about life. “We have hope,” he said. “Life is a pilgrimage to eternity – to heaven itself. Life has meaning once we understand that God is taking us somewhere. We are not like gerbils spinning wheels, we move forward with God to the kingdom and we must always remember this.”
Jesus warns us in the Gospel that we must not become so addicted to this world that we forget where we are going, Bishop Malesic said, noting that hopeless people focus too much on themselves and don’t take enough time to contemplate eternal realities. He said they become angry at life because it gives then no hope, then turn that anger inward, which is the definition of depression.
“Life without God is depressing because it is futile,” the bishop said.
Jesus warned us to avoid greed in all its forms, explaining a person may be wealthy but his possessions don’t guarantee him life. Living for the kingdom of God has rewards while living for material things has unpleasant consequences.
We may accumulate much “stuff” during our lives, the bishop said, adding that he believes the beginning of life is the time we spend getting things. “We begin as infants with nothing, then get toys and bikes and cars and houses and vacation houses and second cars and closets of clothing. But eventually, we must let go of all of them.
He mentioned how his father, who died recently at age 104, stopped driving at 99 and sold his car. Then he sold his house and moved to a two-room care facility. As he neared the end of his life, he let go of that and moved to a single room where he was confined to bed for a few months, losing his memories.
“Eventually, he even had to let go of his body in death. If that is all there is to life, then yes, Qoheleth was right. It is all lived in vain. But near the end of his life, after having enjoyed the gifts God gave him to steward for his time on earth, my dad said, ‘I’m ready to go and see God now.’ That is a life lived with purpose, drive and destiny. A life lived with meaning. It is a life I hope we all want to live,” the bishop said.
He told the young people he was envious. “God wants you to enjoy the things of this creation, the gifts he gives you from this world. But everything in moderation and used according to the laws that God gives to us. And don’t become addicted to this world. Look for those things that endure,” the bishop said, explaining that St. Paul mentions faith, hope and love, with love being the greatest of these.
“So, love God above all things for he has loved you first,” he said
The bishop said the Becoming Fire gathering was an opportunity to celebrate our faith in Jesus, to gather to accept his life, to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and enter into the mystery of his cross. We believe that Jesus is with us now and he comes to us in a special way in the Eucharist, he added.
“We must ask to see him under the signs of bread and wine with eyes of faith until we cry out with St. Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’”
The bishop left the congregants to ponder a question: “Are you chasing the wind or are you seeking Jesus, who is eternal? And that question leads to the next: ‘What is the Lord asking of you today?’”
After Mass, the bishop mingled with attendees and listened to keynote speaker David Calvitta.
Food trucks, beverages, games, adoration, praise and worship rounded out the evening. Attendees also had an opportunity for spiritual direction and could talk with members of various religious congregations who minister in the diocese.