At his installation as the ninth archbishop of Chicago on Nov. 18, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich urged the congregation at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral to fearlessly share their faith recognizing that God calls them "to more" and "to greater things."
Before an overflow crowd, the archbishop said he had "a bit of a panic attack" when he saw the day's Gospel reading was about Jesus walking on water and calling his disciples to follow him.
"I realize this new responsibility is going to be demanding," he said, "but seriously folks, I don't do 'walking on water.' I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today's Gospel is not reflective of anyone's expectations."
The archbishop, who succeeds Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, said the passage asks believers to "join Christ in seeking out, inviting and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us."
In particular, he said Catholics today face the "formidable task of passing on the faith to the next generation, of evangelizing a modern and sometimes skeptical culture, not to mention inspiring young people to serve the church as priests and religious." That challenge, he said, "all seems so daunting, as daunting as walking on water."
Archbishop Cupich noted that catechists and educators are "on the front line of this struggle," along with parents, grandparents, bishops and priests who can "find that the good news is increasingly difficult to proclaim in the midst of great polarization in church and society."
In moving forward, he said Catholics need to go back to where their journey of faith began -- at their baptism -- and be "willing to share it with the next generation."
"Young people have always been attracted to authenticity of life, where words match deeds. Let's not be afraid to let our young people know about our life with God and how it began," he said.
He stressed that such authenticity would similarly be demanded of him as archbishop "particularly as I reach out to those who have been sexually abused by church leaders."
"That starting point will always be needed for me and my brother bishops to keep fresh the serious duty to honor and keep the promises we made in 2002," he said, referring to the year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
"Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our mishandling is our sacred duty, as is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do," the archbishop added.
He told the congregation that Jesus invites them to "take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way, and to challenge each other to do so."
Some examples he stated included: going to Mass more than once a week and changing habitual bad behaviors, unhealthy dependencies or inordinate attachments.
He said Pope Francis has similarly urged Catholics to "walk with Christ, as he is always doing something new."
"It is an invitation to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way. He is challenging us to recognize that Christ is always inviting us to more, to greater things. It is the kind of invitation our bishops' conference is making to our nation to be what it has always promised to be, to protect the vulnerable, poor and weak, to treat immigrants with justice and dignity, to respect life and to be good stewards of creation.
The archbishop said it is "the invitation of Jesus: 'Come, take the risk of being more.'"