Most of our group lives in Darwin, we are used to the beach. Go there a lot – to get the boat out, to watch the sunset, for a swim, a picnic, a jog, a coffee, to walk the dog, to meet up with friends or family, to look for crocodiles 🙂 So in finding out all the events were going to be on the beach in Rio, I could have thought “yeah no big deal, I’m always at the beach”.
Are you kidding me?
A beach for World Youth Day events – totally incredible!! Mate! (for all the internationals reading he he) How often has this happened…. not at all (I’m pretty sure). And not just any beach! Copacabana. Rio. Brasil. Yeah!
It was the Tuesday of the WYD week – the first official day of the event. Even though we had been in Rio since Sunday, this was it, the beginning of World Youth Day. It was Opening Mass day.
It didn’t matter that it was wet and cold. It didn’t matter that there was no chance for a swim. It didn’t matter that we all looked rather ridiculous in our plastic street bought ponchos. We were together, we were at World Youth Day, we were in Rio de Janeiro, we were about to join the youth of the world on the beach. For Mass! Al-le-lu-uia!
I had had an emotional morning, I’d been blessed with some time to go to one of the parks set up for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was incredible, so many good holy priests, sitting quietly, waiting for us to come to Jesus (through them) in the Sacrament. I got something off my chest that had been needing release, and Allelulia it was amazing. As it always is. And so without giving you all the gory details, I was on fire! I was so full of God’s love, I was crying at the drop of a hat (the tell tale sign with me). My heart was so full, I loved God so much!
And so, as we walked out together onto that beach, with all the emotion of it all…. guess what I did!? Water works! 🙂 Funnily enough I was called on it pretty soon by a fellow pilgrim “You’re going to cry aren’t you?” “Yes!” I replied, but I quickly got it in check. Not that it is at all bad to cry, but I wanted to soak up every single minute.
Let me try and describe it to you. White, deliciously soft sand. A kind of sand that doesn’t cling to you – that is so smooth and gentle on your feet, its like walking through fairy dust. Water, lots of water. Coming from the sea and from above. It feels that both are in blessing – today this all feels like holy water. And then all over this sand and by the water, are groups of happy, joyful, loving, hopeful, energetic young people. They are waving flags, meeting each other, exchanging names and countries, taking photos, greeting and hugging each other. Like long lost friends. It is because they are, except they were never lost. Just today found in a new way. We have always been and always will be brothers and sisters. It is the coming together of the international family of the Church.
And we, together, are all flocking onto the beach. We head onto the beach and go in one direction. We flock to one end where a large, impressive stage awaits us. It too, has been waiting for us, for this. And it is impressive. High and wide, able to be seen from a long way away. In the middle, it is unmistakable – a cross. A huge cross. It’s why we are all here. That cross. What it represents. And together, in fun, in love, in meeting brothers and sisters from around the world, and on the beach (oh yeah!) we have come to meet Him.
Mass on a beach. Can someone write a song about it?
We didn’t know on this day that this wasn’t going to be the only Mass on this beach that week. When we were there on that day, it was the one and only. It was the first and last. And that day, at that Mass, it was like it was my first, and I would have been happy if it was my last.
My challenge today is to be THAT present, THAT alive for Jesus in EVERY Mass in which I meet Him. I am today, holding onto that joy, holding onto that LOVE that was so overwhelming it brought me to tears.
God, please help me to remember that in each Mass, no matter how small, how quiet it is – that is it the SAME Mass that was at World Youth Day, the same Mass that Pope Francis celebrates, the same Mass that all my new friends from around the world are too celebrating today. We are together as the universal Church in each Eucharist. In each breaking of the bread. We are together with those who we have met, those who we have never met and those who are struggling and suffering for their faith around the world.
Someone once said to me that “one Mass is greater than all the sin and hurt in the world”. I truly felt on that day on Copacabana Beach. And since then, I’ve been constantly reminding myself of that. Lord, let me not take your Mass, our Mass for granted. Let me truly love meeting you and my community of faith each time in the Mass, to be present and open to your spirit in the word and sacrament. I know I will fail, I know I will have times of struggle, but with your help O Lord, let me begin again.