WYD Pilgrimage – final sermon
Readings: 1 Thess. 1:1-5. 8b-10; Ps 149; Mt 23:13-22
There are many images of Mary being crowned, not least in the apse windows of this church and, to my mind, these celebrate Mary’s Queenship which is distinct from her Assumption which we celebrated a week ago. Her coronation, then, completes and perfects her life, so that although the Assumption is the end of her earthly pilgrimage of life – and there are many images to show this, her ‘dormition’ or death – there is something still more to come after that end. There is still another aspect of her life to celebrate: her Coronation.
So too, our pilgrimage has come to an end. But there is still something more to come. The journey home, of course, but also still another aspect of WYD to celebrate, something to crown it all. That something is holiness, becoming a saint. And we see this reflected in Our Lady. The graces that Mary received from God in her earthly pilgrimage were crowned by God in heaven with the reward of eternal life at His side. The promises given her were finally fulfilled and perfected in her Coronation as queen of all the saints; queen because she is so full of grace, and super-eminent in charity. And we? We have been given so many graces in this pilgrimage. We will have discovered something more about ourselves, made new friends and discovered something more about the Church. Above all, I hope, we will have come closer to Jesus Christ, and discovered anew just how much God loves us, and just how much he gives us with every breath we take. All these graces, every good thing we do, and every gift we have comes from God, the Father of all goodness, who (as St Paul says), has chosen us.
And we have been given all these so that God can crown them, and reward us with sainthood. With union with him, with the fullness of salvation, and eternal life. If … we persevere in grace, if we remain open to God’s Spirit. So, the graces that we have been given still await their coronation. We still await the fulfillment of God’s promises, and we await the perfection of our lives by Christ. We await, as St Paul says, the coming of God’s Son from heaven. So, let us look out for him.
He is found in the Mass and the sacraments, recognized in the Blessed Sacrament whom we adore and receive in communion. He is encountered in the forgiveness we extend to those who hurt us … in the mercy, reconciliation and peace we offer to those who offend us. He is seen in the poor whom we serve, feed, wash, visit, and help. Above all, he is seen in the love that we have for the other, who is not a stranger but a neighbour, not just some guy I sat next to on the coach, but a brother or sister, a friend. If we await and seek Christ, and we find him in these ways and more, then the graces God gives us will well up to eternal life. Then, by God’s grace we too, like Mary, will merit to be crowned with the glory of the saints, and rejoice with God in heaven forever.
In our pilgrimage we have had some glimpse of this … Eternity, I know you’ll say, given the interminable coach journeys etc, but also, I hope, a glimpse of friendship, love, delight, exuberance, peace, and joy, and feasting like kings and queens – which is what eternal life with God is (!), and to a more perfect degree than we can even imagine, and greater than any earthly pilgrimage can barely hint at.