Youth and the Mission of the Church: Pentecost Letter 2006
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne
You have been chosen for a Mission
You are on a mission from God. So am I. In fact, the mission of God is the sole reason for the existence of the Church. It is her deepest identity. So it is your identity too, because you are full members of the Church.
You have been God’s ‘secret agent’ in the world ever since you were baptised; but when you were confirmed, you were ‘activated’ and committed to your mission. Your confirmation was your own personal Pentecost. You were anointed with sacred Chrism, and given the “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now you are ready for your mission!
Precisely because you are young.
You are enthusiastic, confident, idealistic! You do not yet have the responsibilities of family or career! You understand the language of the modern world. You have compassion – a desire to help those who are in need. You have not become cynical about the world. Hope burns in your hearts. You have a passion for truth. You can pick a falsehood or an hypocrisy a mile away.
In some areas you outpace your elders. You understand technology – especially the internet. You know and appreciate the power of music. You know how to communicate through these media. You know that they can be used for good or for evil.
Older people may look down on you for these characteristics, but these traits are precisely what is required for God’s mission today.
This is your mission
It is important that you understand the exact nature of your mission.
Jesus gave his followers the mission to take the ‘Good News’ (also known as ‘the Gospel’) to the whole world. This is what is meant by ‘evangelisation.’
But what is that “good news”?
First, God made us in his image. We human beings are not objects to be used or abused by others. We are not random ‘flukes’ of an unfeeling universe. Every human being has an infinite worth and dignity. We need to let everyone know this!
Second, all human beings have a destiny. God made us for a relationship with him. We are called to be friends with God, to be loved by him and to be with him for all eternity. This too must be made known to everyone!
But even if we complete these two tasks, our mission has not yet been accomplished. If the human race is to fully realise its identity and its destiny, then we must bring Jesus Christ to the world! He is the one who restores us to our true identity as God’s children and leads us to our eternal destiny in God. The world must be conquered by Christ!
The dangers and the risks
You also have to understand that your mission is dangerous and risky. You are being sent into enemy territory – ”like sheep among wolves,” according to Jesus. You are being sent to bring Jesus Christ into the lives of your family, your friends and all with whom you live and work. That means that your mission will impact on your personal life and on the way others think of you.
Jesus described your mission like this: “All who wish to follow me must take up their cross.” Carrying the cross of Jesus requires you to be a true radical. The Cross is subversive. Your mission is to be counter-cultural. You must dare to be different.
In the course of your mission, you are called to oppose every force that threatens to keep people from knowing and coming to love Jesus Christ. I warn you now that these forces are very powerful.
In the 20th Century, two young men came to know the full strength of these ‘anti-Christian’ forces. In his youth, Karol Wojtyla faced the invasion of the Nazi’s in his home of Poland, and then later he faced the tyranny of Soviet Communism. On the other side of the enemy lines, young Joseph Ratzinger was drafted into the service of the Nazi regime and decided there and then to set his whole heart and mind against the evil that it represented.
Later, as Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, they continued to encourage young people not to accept the lie of the anti-Christian culture and ideologies that surround them.
The lie of the land
In contrast to the experience of Karol and Joseph, today it seems that we live in perfect freedom. We are free to do what we like, when we like and how we like it.
But behind this ‘freedom’ is a lie. Pope John Paul warned young people to “put yourself on guard against the fraud of the world!” As you carry out your mission from God, the world will offer you many enticements to “go over to the other side.” It will offer fantasy worlds of alcohol and drugs, short-lived sexual relationships without commitment to marriage and family, indifference, cynicism and even violence.
Today a vast number of people have swallowed the idea that ‘God is dead.’ They have forgotten who and what they are. As you carry out your mission to remind them of their true identity, be careful that you do not forget your own!
You are being sent into a culture that is descending into darkness. Your task is to bring God’s light back into that culture. Use all your power to support whatever goodness, truth, beauty and love you can find in the world, and if you cannot find it, make such good things happen.
What help will you have on your mission?
As you carry out your mission from God, remember that you are not alone. When you were confirmed, you received power from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is your constant guide and companion.
The Spirit has given you a world-wide support network: the Church. You also have “supernatural” support in the prayers of those who have already completed their mission on earth: the Saints. Added to this is the protection of God’s other ‘agents’ in the world: the Angels.
At any time in your mission, you can “report to headquarters” by attending Mass or visiting the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, you must do this regularly. It is a part of your mission to gather with those who share God’s mission on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist together.
Often you will fail in your mission. This does not mean it is all over. When this happens, seek God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. God never abandons those who are on his mission.
Become friends with your priests, religious and bishops. Learn from them. Be with them. They share the mission with you as ‘field agents’ for Christ. Let them be your mentors. They will help you recognise your gifts and how best to use them for the mission.
Become familiar with the Church’s ‘manuals’: the Scriptures, the Catechism and the newly published Compendium of the Catechism.
And finally, draw strength from and give support to your fellow youth
on the mission. Youth are the best encouragement for youth.
Where do you start?
Start at the very beginning: God is love; and then love others as you have been loved. Work from there.
Don’t see a need without acting on it. Don’t see a need without praying about it. God is sending you to show people that there is a higher purpose in life. You are not being asked to impose Jesus on the world, but to constantly propose him in what you say and how you live your life. So be an undercurrent for good in your community. Live a life of distinction.
Do not be afraid. You are on a mission from God.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne