I was intrigued by a letter written to a newspaper from a young adult. He wrote it in a response to a letter sent by someone who lived through the years of World War II, who had described how hard it was to be a teenager in the first half of 1940s, writes Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong.
The senior citizen’s message was that kids today have an easy time of it compared to teenagers in the 1940s. Here’s what the young person wrote in his reply:
Let me ask you, older generation, a few questions:Were your parents divorced? So many of my friends come from a broken home. Were you thinking about suicide when you were 15? Did you have an ulcer when you were 17? Did your best friend lose her virginity to a guy she went out with twice? You might have had to worry about VD, but did you have to worry about AIDS? Did some of your classmates carry knives? How many teenage kids in your class came to school at times drunk, stoned, or high on drugs? What percentage of your HSC class also graduated from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre? Did your school have to have armed security guards at times? Did you ever live in a neighbourhood where the sound of gunfire at night was frequent? You mention a lot about being quite poor and having no money. Since when does money mean happiness? The kids at school who have the expensive cars and designer clothes are often the most miserable.
He finished off, “When I get to your age, I won’t do much looking back, I’ll just thank God that I survived.”
So, what are we to do these days? Many young people are understandably overwhelmed drowning in so many problems and worries and sadness? What are we to do?’
Just as the Apostles stuck with a mere five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000 plus, who followed Jesus into the desert (Mt 14:13-21), were at their wits end, Jesus said, “You give them something to eat yourselves.”
They protested “How, all we have is five loaves and two fishes?” Then Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.” The result: Little is always much in the hands of Jesus.
Young people faced with overwhelming odds can experience World Youth Day as waking them up to the fact we do have a good friend who whispers: “Bring them to me, bring what little you have.” Jesus says “Bring them to me and I will make you adequate for the task at hand.
Bring them to me – your hopes, your dreams, your convictions. Bring them to me – your burdens, your challenges, your responsibilities, your hurts.” Sit down in my presence in the Tabernacle. “Come to me all you who labour and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you.” (Mt 11:28)
Learn to see and meet Jesus in the Eucharist where he is present and close to us and even becomes food for our journey. Recognise and see Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in those who are in difficulty and in need of help.
You see, when life gets the best of us, perhaps it is often because we focus too much on how little we can do and we focus too little on how much Jesus Christ can do. In any case, know that Jesus will have the last word anyway.
When all the anxieties have passed, when the worries have gone and the crosses disappeared, one thing is constant: God loving us more than we can ever imagine in Jesus Christ his son.
St Paul asks “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8:35)
“I can do all things in the One who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)
World Youth Day helps young people begin to understand we are not on our own.