Faith on fire
Published: 7 October 2012
By: Selina Venier
"Awakened": Young people at the opening Mass of the Ignite Conference at Mueller College, Rothwell
"I'M waking up earlier in Brisbane," Archbishop Mark Coleridge told hundreds of young people during his keynote address at the Sept-ember 27-30 Ignite Youth Conference - "Awaken" - at Rothwell, north of Brisbane.
"It's because the light streams through the window and it might only be quarter to six but it feels much later," he said.
Archbishop Coleridge linked personal experience into the "awaken" theme and to the truth of Christ-ianity.
"Unless there is the light - which comes from Jesus - we're just going to live a half-life or worse, a living death," he said.
"A lot of people are Christian by name but there isn't that 'fire in the belly' that creates ignition.
"From my experience of the Christian life it doesn't just happen once - there has to be a number of 'ignitions' through our life's journey."
The Archbishop praised Emmanuel Community - calling the community one of the "jewels in the crown of the Archdiocese of Brisbane" - for offering the Ignite "experience".
"What is the spark (for ignition of faith in God)?" Archbishop Coleridge said.
"The spark is this Ignite experience.
"The theme of this gathering is fantastic - awaken - we can be asleep without even knowing it."
Archbishop Coleridge said for "ignition and reignition" of faith in God, the question of "what is Christianity" needed to be answered.
"I'm sorry if that question is embarrassingly simple and obvious but it's amazing how often we take the seemingly simple and obvious for granted," he said.
"So what are we on about as Christians, what am I on about as a Christian bishop or you as a Christian disciple?"
To answer those questions Archbishop Coleridge quoted school leavers who had shared with him that "Jesus is an absolutely outstanding role model whom we have to imitate as best we can".
"No, I said to them, 'If that's all Jesus is, He's not worth the effort'," he said.
"How many role models have we got?
"I don't think that's what Christianity is ... Christianity is not really a religion in any conventional sense; it's not a religious system or a set of ethics or a moral code or some kind of religious ideology.
"Christianity is not a religion that human beings concocted.
"Christianity is a gift that has come from God ... Christianity is an experience and what young people require is not just words about God or the spiritual life - what you are after is an experience of God.
"You are 'an experience generation' ... (and) that's why you are a gift."
Archbishop Coleridge said Ignite - offering dozens of workshop sessions, small groups, morning and evening rallies, prayer experiences, Adoration of the Blessed Sac-rament and Reconciliation - was "an experience of encounter with each other and an experience of encounter with God".
"Now we are coming close to the heart of Christianity," he said.
"It's an experience of an encounter with Jesus Christ - not a role model who lived once upon a time, not a wise teacher ... not a miracle worker ... he was all of those but that's not enough for us.
"It's an encounter with Jesus Christ who was crucified and who was raised from the dead.
"They are the two facts about Jesus that matter."
Archbishop Coleridge encouraged the young people gathered to look to Jesus - "whose wounds became the trophies of triumph" - to encounter Him "here and now".
"When you meet Him, all the conventional categories are shattered and the whole foundation of your life will shake," he said.
"It did for the first disciples and you're no different.
"That's what's going to happen when you wake up.
"When Jesus meets us he says, 'I claim everything that you are'."
The Archbishop said Jesus Christ would "do everything in His power" to ensure we "don't lock ourselves away" - what he described as the boredom of society which leads to "narcosis".
"A popular form of narcosis in this culture is alcohol," he said.
"It's the most socially acceptable of all the drugs ... (and) there are other forms of dependency.
"Why do we turn to the narcotics?
"Because of that deep and dangerous boredom ... we know we're living a half-life and we're made for a fullness of life and the alcohol or the pills or whatever seems to give us an experience of being alive - (they seem to give) another dimension of life.
"That's what they promise but they deliver the exact opposite.
"Addictions are our most powerful image of what sin really is - that sense that I am in the grip of a power that I can't do anything about.
"Sex is another obvious form of narcosis that brings with it a kind of sleep ... as is shopping therapy - 'I have therefore I am'."
The prophet Micah was quoted by the Archbishop with the words "they live in a forest with meadowland all around (and) they just don't know it's there - they don't see it's there, they think there's only the forest".
"You were created for paradise," Archbishop Coleridge said.
"You were created for the ecstasy of God but you've got to walk out of the forest ... (and) awaken from the half-life.
"When you see Jesus risen from the dead you realise first of all what you've been living is a half-life.
Emmanuel Community Moderator Shayne Bennett added his words of encouragement to the young people gathered.
"This call to be awake - to awaken yourselves and awaken others - is part of God's plan for this nation," he said, adding, "To stir up the faith of young people so that we might have an influence."
"Look what Jesus did with 12 - imagine what he could do with 1000."
Mr Bennett said young people "have a capacity to bring the Kingdom of God upon this earth and into this nation" and it "starts with your 'Yes'".
"Today we can make a new beginning," he said.
"If you've never thought about this before, I dare you - I dare you to say, 'Jesus show me who You are, Jesus reveal Yourself to me'.
"(And) if you've said those words 100 times before, I dare you to say it again and see what God will do because we believe in a God who is not absent.
"We believe in a God who is very present and who promised to be with us - that we might know Him, love Him and experience Him."
Ignite attracted more than 800 registrations from every state in Australia - except Tasmania - and from New Zealand.