Two Tasks for Youth

(Homily for Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday - Year A)

Bottom line: A young person faces two tasks: Discernment - what is God's plan for my life? And Confession - asking His help to order one's life, to climb God's mountain..

Last week I asked you to join with me in a novena of prayer for our youth. Today we will once again use the Prayer for Youth as the conclusion of the General Intercessions. The Scripture readings could hardly be better for this theme. They indicate the two basic tasks for young people.

Before explaining the two tasks, I want to remind you of what Blessed John Paul II used to say: Youth is not so much chronological as it is a time of decision. A young person asks these questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do with my life? To answer those questions a young person must face two tasks.

The first task is discernment. As we saw in the Old Testament reading, the prophet Elijah heard God's voice in a "tiny whispering sound." Discernment involves getting away from the constant daily distractions, all the "noise" that bombards us from TV, Internet and so on. Only then can a young person hear God's voice.

This week I will be taking a group of sixty-one people to World Youth Day in Madrid. It will be week of intense catechesis and prayer - and of vocation discernment. Recent surveys of newly ordained priests show that twenty-one percent had participated in a World Youth Day. Besides religious life, World Youth Day can also also be time for discerning a vocation to the marriage. I even know a guy who proposed to his fiancee at the last World Youth Day in Australia. He did it on the steps of the Sydney Cathedral!

Something that dramatic will not happen to many people at World Youth Day. We will, however, have the opportunity to listen to some dynamic Catholic speakers: Fr. Bob Barron, Jason Evert, Helen Alvare - and of course, Pope Benedict XVI. We will participte in daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the Way of the Cross and the rosary. It will be an opportunity to hear that "tiny whispering sound" - the Holy Spirit.

Whether a young person is going to World Youth Day or takes time at home, the first task is discernment - discovering how one fits into God's plan.

There is second task for a young person. The Gospel refers to it: Confession. With a storm raging, Peter realized he was sinking. He cried out, "Lord, save me!" Something similar happens in Confession - the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am not talking here about what might be called a "routine" or "devotional" confession. Don't get me wrong, a devotional confession has great value. But confession in the fullest sense involves an in-depth examination of conscience: Where do I experience God's grace and where are the shadows in my life - those times when I go it on my own, separate from Christ? After making that examination, I cry out to Jesus for help, "Lord, save me!"

That is a key moment - a turning point - for a young person: Recognizing that I need help, that I can't do it on my own, that I require a higher power. It is easy for us to forget that need - especially when a person feels strong and self-sufficient.

The Italians have a legend about the blackbird. When winter ends, it sings, "It is Spring now. I no longer need God." What an illusion! Yet you and I can be equally foolish. Instead of thanking God for a moment of calm water, we can forget our dependence upon him. If that deception takes over, Jesus sometimes sends a storm and allows a soul to sink. It is an act of mercy because apart from him we have nothing but emptiness and misery.

Confession, the recognition of one's need for Jesus - represents a new beginning. In one sense the whole purpose of World Youth Day is to provide a context for an in-depth confession. A young person must face that task. God calls every youth to climb a mountain, particularly the mountain of chastity - to integrate sexuality in a way that it will bring life, not destruction.

The same applies to the other passions: anger, pity, curiosity, acquisition, liesure and so on. All of them have a good purpose, but they can all run amok. Take pity or compassion. It is a noble passion, but it can cause problems. How many girls, for example, come to grief because they feel sorry for some guy? (You don't have to raise your hand. :) Compassion is not an absolute. A person has to integrate that natural passion into God's plan.

That's what Confession is about: Turning to God, asking his help ("Lord, save me!") and making a new beginning. God calls each young person to climb a mountain, a holy mountain. That mountain has more crevices today than we adults faced. Still we want to accompany our young people - and none of us here has yet made it to the summit. We have a ways to go - and we need to confession too.

So, today we see that a young person faces two tasks: Discernment - what is God's plan for my life? And Confession - asking His help to order one's life, to climb God's mountain. Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (for Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2008: For the Sake of My Own People
2005: Lord, Save Me, I Am Drowning
2002: Men of Faith
1999: The Small, Still Voice

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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An email from Dave Jarvis: Was Professor Hawking's Audience with Pope John Paul only a private conversation? ("If you care for truth, you will either remove your page, provide the full context, or state that the real truth of the situation can never be known either way.")

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