Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told 1,600 Catholic teens gathered for the "City of Saints" conference that their faith and love for Jesus was an inspiration.
"Your desire to live your faith and share your faith - it is so beautiful to witness. And it is so inspiring," he said in an Aug. 5 homily at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The archbishop and the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted the third annual "City of Saints" conference for teens, offering them an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship.
Teenagers attended from 80 parishes and schools throughout Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the three counties that make up the archdiocese.
The Aug. 4-6 event featured speakers as well as music with contemporary Catholic-Christian band WAL.
Attendees had an opportunity to participate in facilitated group time and the sacrament of reconciliation. Archbishop Gomez celebrated an afternoon Mass Aug. 4 to welcome the teens, then led them in an outdoor Eucharistic procession to open a area designated as "Sacred Space," where spiritual directors described different paths of prayer for the weekend.
"I want to say, as we heard St. Peter say in the Gospel passage tonight - 'It is good that we are here, Lord!' Thanks be to God!" the archbishop said in his homily at the Aug. 5 Mass closing the full day of the conference.
"Our Gospel tonight, leads us up the high mountain - the mountain of God," he continued. "It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as He chose the three apostles to go with Him in the Gospel - St. Peter, St. James and St. John."
"We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard - the 'transfiguration' of our Lord Jesus Christ," Archbishop Gomez said.
That scene was amazing, he said, with the face of Jesus "shining like the sun," His clothes turning into "white light," and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing "out of nowhere."
Imagining what they saw "reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery - a cosmic reality - the loving plan of the living God. My young friends, you and me, we are 'part of the plan,'" the archbishop told the teens.
"The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives. Until one day we will shine like the sun - just we saw His face shine like the sun in the Gospel today," Archbishop Gomez explained. "This is God's plan for your lives - to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved Son."
"Jesus is the answer" as to how to do this, he said. "Listen to him! This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself. Let Jesus be your teacher - your 'life coach,' your 'personal trainer.' Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness."
Archbishop Gomez told the teens about two practical things in his life that he said have helped him listen to Jesus - prayer and reading the Gospels. He urged them to make those two things a habit in their own lives.
He suggested they download a Bible app onto their smartphones, so "you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go."
"When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel," Archbishop Gomez said. "It is way better than checking your Instagram feed."
And "it is true that you can follow me on Instagram, so you should check that out, too!" he added.
"The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God," Archbishop Gomez said. "The more we reflect on the Gospels - the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world."
"The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear Him," he said. "The more we want to be with Him - in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation."
By following these practices, Archbishop Gomez said, "slowly, we have a 'transfiguration' in our lives. That is how it works."