“The three most profound things that you and I are called to know is that God loves you, Christ saves you and Christ is alive.”
Young Catholics from across Australia were encouraged to live out these professions by American evangelist and author Katie Prejean McGrady on the last day of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Perth.
In the last of her presentations during the festival, Prejean McGrady spoke about Pope Francis’ 2019 Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, which was directed to young people, as well as the people of God.
“The most profound thing that Pope Francis did in this document [Christus Vivit] wasn’t write it, but in the middle of it, he gives us basically the Gospel message in four pages or less,” Prejean McGrady said.
Prejean McGrady explored the three topics through references to the exhortation and a mix of funny anecdotes and touching stories about her own life.
When speaking about how God loves us, Prejean McGrady used the example of her daughter waiting with open arms when she would return home from travelling.
“We began this life and we end this life as sons and daughters of the King Most High who longs to love us as children,” she told the audience.
“When we have a disposition of a child towards God the Father, we can’t help but run to Him, especially in moments when we realised perhaps we have been far from Him, perhaps we have been distant for whatever reason.
“You and I, we often struggle with our identity and we often struggle with who we are in this world and what we are called to be.
“God intimately, purposefully, intentionally and personal loves you in a particular way. God loves you, He loves me with all of my mistakes, my mess ups, my foibles, my insecurities, my doubts and my fears. He loves me even in the moments when I don’t love him back – He loves me because I am His. He loves me, not because I can do something for Him, but simply because I have a heartbeat, and I have a brain, and I exist,” she said.
“For him, you have worth; you are not insignificant. You are important to him, for you are the work of his hands. That is why he is concerned about you and looks to you with affection…He does not keep track of your failings and he always helps you learn something even from your mistakes. Because he loves you” (Christus Vivit 115).
Prejean McGrady continued, “God sees the wounds, the hurt, the self-hatred and self-doubt, the repeated sins that we hold on to, the feelings of worthlessness that we carry through this world.
“The quickest and surest way to actually fall ‘in love’ with the God that loves you and to respond to God’s love is to take time every single day and talk to him as a friend.
“The love of God and his concern for you isn’t passive. He is a father that is imminently engaged within your life. He’s going to step into your life and show you in an unique and personal way.
“He loves you. Are you making time to get to love Him back?”
The second concept that Prejean McGrady discussed is that ‘Christ saves you’, explaining that through the crucifixion, Christ saves us because we are all worth saving.
“Christ saves us, not because He was bored. Christ saves you because you are worth saving. Christ saves you because He loves you.
“The same Christ who, by his cross, saved us from our sins, today continues to save and redeem us by the power of his total self-surrender…Never forget that ‘he forgives us seventy times seven. Time and time again, he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness that never disappoints but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.’ [Evangelii Gaudium §3]” (Christus Vivit 119).
In reference to the numerous crucifixes in her house, Prejean McGrady explained, “it is imminently important to me that we put ourselves in front of Jesus consistently – not just an image of his face, not just an image from a moment from the Gospel, but an image [and] a reminder of what He did for me, for you, for us.
“Christ didn’t die on the cross to take away all [our] hurt. He died on the cross because you’re on the cross and He’s there with us. He shows us new life to live to the full with Him, and life lived to the full is not a life immune of suffering, but one where suffering becomes sanctifying.”
In explaining ‘Christ is alive,’ Prejean McGrady used the example of her family house avoiding destruction during Hurricane Rita in 2005 to explain how Christ is with us even during the tough moments in life, or when bad things happen to us.
When arriving back to their house, and seeing that it was completely fine, Prejean McGrady’s mother told her “what matters is that Christ is here in the midst of this storm, and can calm all of it.”
“Alive, he can be present in your life at every moment, to fill it with light and to take away all sorrow and solitude. Even if all others depart, he will remain, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). He fills your life with his unseen presence; wherever you go, he will be waiting there for you. Because he did not only come in the past, but he comes to you today and every day, inviting you to set out towards ever new horizons.” (Christus Vivit 125).
She continued, “the storms are going to come in your life, and it’s going to be hard to hold on to that belief that God loves you, Christ saves you and Christ is alive.
“Sometimes you’re going to feel like nobody loves you, that you’re absolutely and totally alone and that you’re dead inside.
“It’s in those moments of loneliness, doubt and pain and feeling no worth whatsoever that we can pray a simple prayer that brings us back to this recognition that Christ hung on that cross not to magically take it all away, but to stretch His arms wider to pull us in when we find ourselves carrying the crosses too – Jesus, I trust in you.
“In the midst of feeling like you’re not loved – Jesus, I trust in your love.
“In the midst of feeling dead – Jesus, I trust that you give me life.
“In the midst of feeling alone – Jesus, I trust that you are with me.
“In the midst of feeling like you don’t know what God’s plan is for your life – Jesus, I trust that you have only good things in mind for me.
“In the midst of not knowing what’s coming – Jesus, I trust that you will guide me where I’m supposed to go.”
In concluding, Prejean McGrady encouraged the young people to visit the festival’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel before the final Mass that was held later on that evening.
“Spend a couple of minutes [with Jesus] to say thank you, I love you too, and I’m excited to see what you’re going to do with my life after I go home.
“If we truly think about the life that we are called to live, life to the full, a life that knows that God loves us, Christ saves us and Christ is alive, that that’s a life we then offer to the Lord every single day as we say consistently, ‘I trust in you’.”