The Army of the Young
There is a marvelous transformation taking place, folks. It is wonderful. We are blessed to be living at this time in the world’s history. It is a time of saints, a time of Blessed Mother Theresa and Servant of God John Paul II. It is a time of dedicated Catholic Christians and Christians of other faiths throughout the world. It is a time of transformation.
Last month, over a million young people gathered in Sydney for the World Youth Day Celebrations. Here in the United States this summer there were nineteen Steubenville Conferences each attended by 1,200 to 4,000 young people. Life Teen, the Inspiration Tour, and vibrant youth ministry programs in every diocese of the country are local reflections of the youth movement begun by Pope John Paul II when he initiated the first World Youth Day over twenty years ago, and continued by Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney and, previously, in Cologne. Vocations are flowing from these youth movements. Over half of our seminarians for our Diocese have been involved in Life Teen. Four of our own Life Teen alumni are looking very seriously into the priesthood.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This all didn’t just start now. It began with the parents and grandparents of the present youth. Twenty to thirty years ago local youth movements like COR, Antioch, Search and Tech, led so many in our country to solidify their faith. These people and their children became the leaders of the present youth. You are these people. You created the home environments that led to the current worldwide transformation. Small Christian communities, Cursillio, and so many other movements throughout the world continue to strengthen them.
What is this about? Why does the Church put so much effort into our young people? It is because they are not just the future. They are the present. We don’t entertain Teens with loud, fun music. We pray with them. We instruct them. We encourage them to grow in the love of Christ, to reach out to Him and to recognize His presence within them. Here at St. Ignatius, your generous support and continual encouragement have resulted in our Life Teen Mass becoming the third most populous Mass. Most of our Masses diminished in attendance during the summer. The number of people attending the Life Teen Mass has grown as Teens bring their friends and pray with them. It is successful because you folks, parents and grandparents, continually praying for the Teens. It is successful because the Holy Spirit is present in His indescribable and wonderful actions.
When the Popes speak at events like World Youth Day, they address the young, but they really speak to all of us. We are all young in our faith. With Jesus Christ, all things are new. Back in 1993 during the World Youth Day in Denver, Pope John Paul II told the young, “Christ calls you, the Church needs you, and the Holy Father has confidence in you and expects great things from you.” This is the Vicar of Christ empowering the young and empowering us to change the world. And the world is changing. We can see it here in the United States. The world saw it this summer in Sydney.
Three years ago at the World Youth Day in Cologne Pope Benedict XVI told the young: “Be completely convinced of this. Christ takes nothing from you that is beautiful and great, but brings all to perfection that is worthwhile in life to the Glory of God and for the happiness of men and women.”
Choosing Christ means losing that which is not Christ. But, like the converted Augustine, we lose nothing that is beautiful and great. Instead, Christ makes our lives beautiful, and worthwhile, and happy.
“Who do people say that I am?” Jesus asks his disciples. “Some say John the Baptist. Some say Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But who do you say I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Peter responds. And Jesus declares Peter his rock, the one upon whom he will build the Church.
Who do we say Jesus is? Not with our words but with our lives. Who do we say that Jesus is? Do we radiate the presence of the Christ, the Anointed one of God? Is He really the motivation, the foundation, the beginning and the end of our lives.
We have to ask ourselves this question, and then we have to follow it with yet another question: how can I live His Life, my Christianity? How can I, like Peter, become his Rock, his foundation?
Here are five considerations. First, you and I need to spend more time in prayer. If we want Him in the Center of our lives, we have to spend time with Him. That might mean giving up sleep, or giving up computer games for a while, less texting, less time on Facebook, giving up some TV, or giving up that long phone conversation. It is worth it. There is nothing that we lose which is beautiful and great. Christ takes nothing worthwhile from us.
Here’s a second thing we need to do. We need to read the Bible. Read a psalm a day. Read a chapter of the New Testament a day. We need to be people of the Word. And no, we shouldn’t be all that concerned about the exact meaning of every phrase. Bible study is good, but Bible prayer is great. This the Word of God. His Spirit is there. We just need to let God speak to us.
Here’s the third thing. We need the sacraments. We need the Eucharistic nourishment every Sunday. When we receive communion we need to adore Him within us as well as in our Adoration on First Friday, on Thursdays after the 9:00 am Mass or during the youth XLT services. He is there in the sacrament calling out to us. It is in the Blessed Sacrament that our lives merge with Jesus’ life. We also need Christ’s sacramental presence in confession. There are way too many occasions of sin in the world. There are so many temptations. We need the Grace of Penance to conquer the evil that we and others put into life.
The Fourth thing we need is each other. We need the community of people of faith. We need to reach out to each other and to others of faith. We need to support each other and seek out those who need our support. We are the People of God.
And finally, to keep Christ alive in our hearts. We can’t just say we love Him. We have to serve Him, serve his presence in the poor, in the sick, in the hurting, serve His presence in our homes, with our children, our families, our friends, our workmates.
Prayer, Scripture, Sacraments, Community and Service. These are all ways that we can proclaim to the world the answer to Jesus’ question: Who do you say that I am?
Be convinced of this: Christ takes nothing from you that is beautiful and great, but brings all to perfection that is worthwhile in life to the Glory of God and the happiness of men and women.
A great army has been mobilized. It is the army of the young, the children of God. And none of us are too old to be part of this army. All of us must be part of the this transformation of the world.
We are the Body of Christ.