Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”
Good News Reflection: Enlivening the faith of our youth
Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of the importance of a good children’s program at church and an effective youth ministry. Whether we are parents, catechists, homilists, school teachers, or just encountering the youth at Mass, we are called to enliven the faith of the young and inspire their full participation in the Church.
However, when children become teenagers, they often seem like aliens from another planet. We expect them to relate to the Church and to the Eucharist the same way that older generations do, but they don’t. We demand that they comply with the “normal” way of participating in Catholic worship, but they lose interest in coming to Mass. Many don’t come to the faith programs that are effective for the rest of us, and yet they call themselves spiritual.
Parish youth programs are often separated from the worshipping community. Their teenagers are not invited to collaborate in the planning of parish missions and other faith formation events. Youth ministry is often under-budgeted. Most youth ministers are often under-paid, if they’re even paid at all, and work only part-time. When we don’t put much into teen ministry, we get as little as we sow.
How many teens and young adults are on the Pastoral Council of your parish? How many are allowed to help shape the religious education program? How many kids are bored by their catechists? Are we willing to let go of our old ways of teaching the faith in order to reach the youth more effectively? Their school teachers use technological visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations; why haven’t our parishes adopted similar tools? (This is why I’ve developed interesting PPTs for Religious Education program; they can be found on my Catholic Digital Resources website at catholicdr.com/PPTs.)
If we look at the faith of the youth from an historical perspective, we can see that today’s youth are ready and willing to be enlivened in their faith and in parish life. When I was a kid (back in the 1960s and early 70s), there was a huge void of faith in the culture of America. Although there seems to be more secularism today, today’s youth have grown up with Christian music proliferating everywhere, even on secular radio stations.
So then, why are they not going to church? What’s missing? What’s the key to successfully evangelizing them? Here are three keys: enthusiasm, authenticity, and an opportunity to make a difference in the world.
(1) Their fast-paced, entertainment-filled lifestyle requires lively, enthusiastic experiences of worship and faith formation to keep them interested.
(2) They’ve grown up with a high level of exposure to the failures of adults (divorces, unstopped abuses, arrogant clergy, politicians who care more about winning elections than about uniting to improve the quality of life of the people they are supposed to serve, etc.). Therefore, they need to have real relationships with roles models who are authentic Christiansliving a true faith, solving problems with their faith, and providing compassionate service because of their faith.
(3) They want to know how to make a difference in this messed-up world. Give them the Church’s teachings on social justice along with opportunities to take action — with a greater emphasis on the doing than on the teaching. The faith they experience outside the Mass will help them better understand the Eucharist.
Today’s youth are poised to become active parishioners, inspired lay leaders, and dedicated, holy priests and religious. Are we doing enough to nurture this?
Lord, uphold my mind and take away from me any feeling that might make me become conceited. May my thoughts be governed by humility and my heart by mercy. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica