Christ is Alive! A Reflection

By Qwayne Guevara, 16 April 2019
Qwayne Guevara, Local Engagement Leader, Catholic Youth Parramatta at LIFTED Live 2019. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

 

Pope Francis ended his much-anticipated Apostolic Exhortation with “Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, ‘attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters.’” [299]

I echo that to my fellow young people, keep running and never give up because the love of the Lord is worth every sacrifice, every mistake, every little yes that leads to a deeper relationship with Jesus and others!

Upon completing the 50-page letter, I recognised the surge of excitement and joy that had formed in my heart – my heart is full! This must be what it was like for the two disciples who encountered Jesus on that walk to Emmaus. “Weren’t our hearts burning within us when he explained the Scriptures?”

God loves you; Christ is your Saviour; he is alive

With these three messages of truth, Pope Francis asks young people to not be afraid to take the risk in asking God what is the meaning and purpose of life? “Why not?”, Pope Francis writes.

Pope Francis offers comfort by explaining the hard and complex realities facing young people today. You sense that he has listened to the cries of the young people with compassion and sincerity – the experiences of youth are real and valid. From years of dialogue and listening, his response is a message of love and an invitation to live life courageously to the full – to be alive because Christ is alive!

Below, I share few of the messages that moved me:

1. Jesus, a young adult

The Lord “gave up his spirit” (cf. Mt 27:50) on a cross when he was little more than thirty years of age (cf. Lk 3:23). It is important to realise that Jesus was a young person. He gave his life when he was, in today’s terms, a young adult. He began his public mission in the prime of life, and thus “a light dawned” (Mt 4:16) that would shine most brightly when he gave his life to the very end. That ending was not something that simply happened; rather, his entire youth, at every moment, was a precious preparation for it. “Everything in Jesus’s life was a sign of his mystery”; indeed, “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption”. [22]

A perspective not commonly talked about is Jesus’ youth being the prime of his ministry! What encouragement for young people of today. Jesus presents to us a way of life lived in mission for others. Pope Francis describes Him as the true youthfulness of a world grown old. An authentic youth requires an openness to and fervour for proclaiming the kerygma – the Good News of the Gospel. When I speak to young people in ministry, they are often stifled by fear of being judged or a desire to please others. However, Jesus and Mary show us what stubborn endurance and creativity can deliver. In communion with others, like the Saints who have gone before us, we are called to dream of new ways of enkindling stars in the night of other young people.

2. Friendship with Jesus

No matter how much you live the experience of these years of your youth, you will never know their deepest and fullest meaning unless you encounter each day your best friend, the friend who is Jesus. [150]

The first thing we need to discern and discover is this: Jesus wants to be a friend to every young person. This discernment is the basis of all else. In the risen Lord’s dialogue with Simon Peter, his great question was: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:16). In other words, do you love me as a friend? The mission that Peter received to shepherd Jesus’ flock will always be linked to this gratuitous love, this love of friendship. [250]

Pope Francis encourages us to seek a deep friendship with Jesus, who loves us. It is a love that can never be broken or changed – it is unconditional. It is this friendship that will give our lives meaning and awaken our human capacity to serve wholeheartedly despite the risks involved in putting out into the deep waters. It is through prayer that this friendship is strengthened. Pope Francis recognises the challenge of prayer but exhorts that it too is an adventure worth embarking on. Through this, our faith becomes less about perceived rules forced down upon us, but rather an openness to obedience that leads to a life of freedom. Getting to know Jesus, is like getting to know a friend. After a while, your friendship becomes a mutual sharing of joys and hopes, fears and struggles. The friendship deepens as each person strives to offer only what is true, good and beautiful to the other. Let us encourage each other to be friends with Jesus.

3. Youth Ministry

I wish simply to emphasise that youth ministry involves two main courses of action. One is outreach, the way we attract new young people to an experience of the Lord. The other is growth, the way we help those who have already had that experience to mature in it. [209]

About 10 to 20 years ago, youth ministry was expanding rapidly in Australia. I, myself, grew up in a community striving to form young people in a life of service. However, as the false cult of youth and appearance compete for the attention of young people and as technologies influence and change the way young people communicate and connect, we must not be discouraged from finding creative and fresh ways to promote the culture of encounter. Once a young person encounters Jesus, we must encourage their maturity through creating an attractive and fraternal environment where they can live with a sense of purpose. Young people need to find a home in which they can be formed and trained, knowing that mistakes are inevitable. We must not become elitists in youth ministry because it excludes especially those who need it the most. Humility must become a virtue we strive for in every aspect of youth ministry, because without it, we will fail to recognise the deepest yearnings of a young person before us and therefore fail to respond appropriately.

Basketball has a become a significant part of my life. Through basketball, I receive on-going fraternal love which has led to dreaming for others and serving the wider community. Though unconventional, sports has taught me how much it and arts, music and nature, has to offer us in the realm of youth ministry.

Pope Francis explains: At the heart of the experience of sport is “joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day. Some Fathers of the Church used the example of the training of athletes to encourage the young to develop their strength and to overcome idleness and boredom. [227]

4. Strong roots

If we journey together, young and old, we can be firmly rooted in the present, and from here, revisit the past and look to the future. To revisit the past in order to learn from history and heal old wounds that at times still trouble us. To look to the future in order to nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge, awaken prophecies and enable hope to blossom. Together, we can learn from one another, warm hearts, inspire minds with the light of the Gospel, and lend new strength to our hands. [199]

I was moved by the encouragement of Pope Francis to never forget the generations before us. Their life experience can enrich our present and offer young people roots that safeguards us from being uprooted. Sometimes, as young people, we can disregard the advice of our elders as out of touch and irrelevant. However, Pope Francis reminds me that adults were once young too. Together, in dialogue and conversation, we can learn about life in ways that present-day social media cannot offer. Although not easy, we need to find ways to speak to one another because this collaborative approach to projects, dreams, plans will enable us, as a human family, to achieve more.

5. My life is not about me

I would now like to speak of vocation in the strict sense, as a call to missionary service to others. The Lord calls us to share in his work of creation and to contribute to the common good by using the gifts we have received. This missionary vocation thus has to do with service. For our life on earth reaches full stature when it becomes an offering. Here I would repeat that “the mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an ‘extra’ or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.’ It follows that every form of pastoral activity, formation and spirituality should be seen in the light of our Christian vocation. Your own personal vocation does not consist only in the work you do, though that is an expression of it. Your vocation is something more: it is a path guiding your many efforts and actions towards service to others. So in discerning your vocation, it is important to determine if you see in yourself the abilities needed to perform that specific service to society. [253-255]

I’d like to highlight a key theme in the document that has been piercing my heart constantly in the last few years. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13. Our lives are to be a constant giving of ourselves for the greater good of others. Our vocation is to love and so we must strive to figure out what it is that our Good Lord is calling us to and commit to it. Our world is filled with so many options, too much noise. At some point, we must have the courage to ask God to whom am I for? Pope Francis exhorts us to choose commitment and to choose love. We are called to fidelity and Pope Francis’ great confidence in us communicates God’s loving gaze that sees what we can become! We can do this because our friendship with Jesus inspires us to reach beyond the stars, to dream big and to make a beautiful mess that captivates the human heart.

I am encouraged by the beauty of Pope Francis’ words to young people. These are truths that now challenge us, as a Church, to find ways to embrace young people and their capacity to dream and contribute. My friends, don’t be afraid to take risks! It’s true, our world needs you.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is not and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

 

Qwayne Guevara is the Catholic Youth Parramatta Local Engagement Leader.

Republished with permission by Qwayne from her personal blog.

 

References to Christus Vivit:

[22] Jesus is “young among the young in order to be an example for the young and to consecrate them to the Lord”.3 (3. SAINT IRENAEUS, Adversus Hæreses, 22, 4: PG 7, 784.) For this reason the Synod said that “youth is an original and stimulating stage of life, which Jesus himself experienced, thereby sanctifying it”.4 (4 Final Document of the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 60. Hereafter cited as FD. The document can be found at: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20181027_doc-finalinstrumentum-xvassemblea-giovani_en.html)

[150] No matter how much you live the experience of these years of your youth, you will never know their deepest and fullest meaning unless you encounter each day your best friend, the friend who is Jesus.

[199] If we journey together, young and old, we can be firmly rooted in the present, and from here, revisit the past and look to the future. To revisit the past in order to learn from history and heal old wounds that at times still trouble us. To look to the future in order to nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge, awaken prophecies and enable hope to blossom. Together, we can learn from one another, warm hearts, inspire minds with the light of the Gospel, and lend new strength to our hands.

[209] I wish simply to emphasize that youth ministry involves two main courses of action. One is outreach, the way we attract new young people to an experience of the Lord. The other is growth, the way we help those who have already had that experience to mature in it.

[227] “Equally significant is the emphasis that young people place on sports; the Church should not underestimate the potential of sports for education and formation, but instead maintain a strong presence there. The world of sport needs to be helped to overcome some of its problematic aspects, such as the idolization of champions, subservience to commercial interests and the ideology of success at any cost”.121 (121 FD 47.) At the heart of the experience of sport is “joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day”.122 (122 Address to a Delegation of the International Special Olympics (16 February 2017): L’Osservatore Romano, 17 February 2017, 8.) Some Fathers of the Church used the example of the training of athletes to encourage the young to develop their strength and to overcome idleness and boredom. Saint Basil the Great, writing to young people, used the effort demanded by athletics to illustrate the value of self-sacrifice as a means of growth in virtue: “These men endure sufferings beyond number, they use many means to build their strength, they sweat constantly as they train… in a word, they so discipline themselves that their whole life prior to the contest is but a preparation for it…How then can we, who have been promised rewards so wondrous in number and in splendour that no tongue can recount them, even think of winning them if we do nothing other than spend our lives in leisure and make but half-hearted efforts?”123 (123 Ad Adolescentes, VIII, 11-12: PG 31, 580.)

[250] The first thing we need to discern and discover is this: Jesus wants to be a friend to every young person. This discernment is the basis of all else. In the risen Lord’s dialogue with Simon Peter, his great question was: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:16). In other words, do you love me as a friend? The mission that Peter received to shepherd Jesus’ flock will always be linked to this gratuitous love, this love of friendship.

[253] I would now like to speak of vocation in the strict sense, as a call to missionary service to others. The Lord calls us to share in his work of creation and to contribute to the common good by using the gifts we have received.

[254] This missionary vocation thus has to do with service. For our life on earth reaches full stature when it becomes an offering. Here I would repeat that “the mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an ‘extra’ or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world”.139 (139 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 273: AAS 105 (2013), 1130.) It follows that every form of pastoral activity, formation and spirituality should be seen in the light of our Christian vocation.

[255] Your own personal vocation does not consist only in the work you do, though that is an expression of it. Your vocation is something more: it is a path guiding your many efforts and actions towards service to others. So in discerning your vocation, it is important to determine if you see in yourself the abilities needed to perform that specific service to society.

[299] Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before you, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, “attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters. May the Holy Spirit urge you on as you run this race. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us”.164 (164 Prayer Vigil with Young Italians at the Circus Maximus in Rome (11 August 2018): L’Osservatore Romano, 13-14 August 2018, 6.)

 

Read the full Papal Apostolic Exhortation here.

 

Read Daily
* indicates required

RELATED STORIES

Menu