(Text: Luke 8:4-8)

Dear friends,

May I begin my remarks of gratitude for your welcome by saying how pleased I am to be with you in this beautiful cathedral, a testament to the zeal and devotion of our forbears in the faith.

Our local church of Ottawa formally came into being as a diocese exactly160 years ago today on June 25, 1847. The dioceses name was originally Bytown. Renamed Ottawa in 1860, it was raised to the dignity of an archdiocese in June 1886.

Our evening prayer quite appropriately began with a smudging ceremony of purification carried out by members of Kateri Ministry. This association of Native Peoples of various tribal backgrounds is named in honour of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the glory of the Mohawk Nation and of the aboriginal peoples of North America.

As we look back on the history of our land, we clearly see that the European explorers who wished to share Christianity with the indigenous peoples of Canada did not always do so according to the highest ideals of their faith and ours. And so we repent of these failurestheirs and oursand ask God to guide us in the ongoing task of reconciliation and healing.

Christians of other communities have joined the Catholic community this evening. I wish to thank the representatives of these other denominations for their presence; I pledge to do all I can to cooperate with you to bring about the unity for which Our Lord prayed at the Last Supper. Let us strive to effect the kind of unity that will allow us to witness to the new creation of Christ which is at work among us through the power of his resurrection.

My gratitude extends to the leaders of other faiths: you have honored me and our Roman Catholic Church by joining us today. I commit myself to follow in the path of collaboration and friendship with you that marked the ministry of my predecessor, Archbishop Gervais.

Please help me in the joint witness we can offer to society of the role faith communities make to the well-being of society.

When people outside the Capital think of Ottawa, they think of politicians. So I want to acknowledge the kind words of Mayor OBrien spoken on behalf of all levels of government.

Your task as public servants in leading the public process of government is an important one. I encourage you to bring the convictions you derive from your faith to bear on all the weighty matters that touch on the public good.

For in a profound way the roots of Canadian society lie in an unprecedented experiment initiated by Christians and Jews. Out of the interplay of these religions emerged a Canadian marvel. What I mean is that Canada is a society graced with a vision of the human person as one made in Gods image. This has led to the shaping of such Canadian values as commitment to relief of the needy, a desire for social justice and convictions about the importance of freedom of conscience.

As Canada Day approaches, it is important that we not overlook the religious origin of this Canadian vision. Christians and Jews did not need to create a public sphere free from religion; they found within their religious practice side by side the creation of a free public sphere. This religiously freed public sphere welcomes followers of other religious traditionsand followers of noneand invites them to become friends who through the rough and tumble of conversation come to discover depths of justice, service and freedom.

Now I would like to express my esteem for the young people of the Archdiocese and their contribution to this vigil of prayer. They have acted out the gospel parable of Jesus as this has been passed on to us by St. Luke. In Jesus provocative story, what began as a seemingly extravagant and lavish casting of seeds upon surfaces that were anything but receptive, culminates in a bountiful harvest. The seeds not only germinated, they grew and produced abundant fruit.

Scholars who study the parables of Jesus note that the accounts of this parable written by the evangelists Mark and Matthew differ from Lukes account. They suggest that careful attention to these differences can help us detect not only what the parable meant to those who heard it from Jesus lips, but also what it meant for the early church members, as they interpreted in their experience, and especially what it meant to each gospel writer who shared it with their local church.

In sifting through these various levels, we detect a pattern of interpretation that obliges us, at the end of the process, to interpret it for today. I would like to share with you some thoughts, derived from my ministry to young people in Nova Scotia, about what it might mean to the youth of our Church of Ottawa and what it might mean in the ecumenical and interfaith context we are called to live in twenty-first century Canada.

Todays young people live in a world where the teaching of Jesuslike the seed in the parableis trampled on or stolen from their hearts. Anxieties, riches and pleasures of life choke off the message in some. And yet the Word of God still manages to find good soil, to take root, and to produce mature fruit in the lives of many young people!

As the Church goes about its primary mission of planting seeds, of sowing Gods Word of life and hope, we need to look at the places where the seed is taking root and producing fruit among young people and work tirelessly to duplicate these conditions.

The whole Church is responsible for proclaiming the Word of God to young people. We cannot approach this task of evangelization as hired hands, sowing the seed simply as a job, as something that must get done. Rather, as the Church of Ottawa, we must regard evangelization as a farming family would in the eastern part of Ontario when they prepare for spring seeding. Such a family knows that its future livelihood and well-being depends on the growth of that seed.

Seeds must be carefully selected and adapted to grow in the specific climate where theyre to be planted. In the same way, we must proclaim the Word of God to young people in a way that relates to their experience. This includes but is not limited to use of appropriate music and electronic media. The Word of God must be presented with a generous and wide appreciation for contemporary youth culture and attitudes.

Just as Christ proclaimed the Parable of the sower to people who lived in a Mediterranean farming culture, we must present the truth of Christ to young people who inhabit a culture characterized by relativism and materialismby the idea that absolute truth does not exist and that only the material world counts.

The seed that adults share with youth needs to be founded on the whole truth as we are called to present it. Anything less will confuse or mislead the young. This means that Church youth programs must include religious and moral education. We must also provide resources for those working with youth and continuing education opportunities for their parents and other adults.

When interacting with young people and their culture, the Church must at all times proclaim the Gospel in a way in which it can be heard, understood and accepted. At the same time, the Word of God must always be experienced as profoundly counter-cultural and life-changing.

The most diligent sowers and the hardiest seeds stand little chance of producing an abundant harvest if the soil is not prepared first. In our world there are numerous ways in which the Word of God is trampled on, eaten up, and even choked. That is why the Church, in carrying on the task of Christ the Sower, must work so hard to help young people to grow in faith and freedom.

A large percentage of our youth live in households where their parents do not regularly attend Sunday Mass. For an increasing number of young people the family is not a source of stability, affirmation, and religious education, and the Church has to be there for them.

After the familywith all its contemporary challengesthe next place where young people meet God, then, is the parish. Thus the parish must do all it can to provide fertile soil for young people. It must foster youth-to-youth relationshipspositive peer pressureand be a place of hospitality, affirmation and belonging, open to the presence and ideals of youth.

Young people who are active in a faith community bring their unrestrained enthusiasm and contagious idealism. The whole Church will benefit, today and tomorrow, from the active involvement of the young. We will see the fruit in the lives of our young people as they take part in the life of the Church, live faithfully with attention to the Word of God in their lives, care for others, work for justice and peace, and plant the seeds of Gods Word in their own culture.

This parable of the sower is packed with marvelous truthstruths so important that Jesus felt He needed to take the disciples aside to explain the story to them in detail.

These truths are as fresh today as they were nearly two thousand years ago. Dangers abound. Temptations are everywhere. But Gods Word is still offered to those of generous heart. Still the seed grows in good soil and brings a harvest of peace, joy and hope.

After Jesus finished His explanation, he added, Let anyone with ears to hear listen! How can we possibly close our ears to His message? Jesus himself has explained itthere is no reason why we shouldnt get it. In closing I suggest we ask ourselves, Do we get it? For if we do get it, the Church will welcome the future with open arms. We will not only have sown the seeds, but we will have helped produce another generation ready to become themselves sowers of the seed. Let us pray to God that it may be so.