I felt that I needed to write this because that will be the first thing my Catholic friends ask me when I meet them. So the question of ‘why?’ becomes very apparent that I should not have missed this opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus and to keep vigil with him. On the contrary, I had mixed feelings about whether to attend the event and the answer I got through prayer was a no.
I was surprised and confused as to the answer and continued to ask. The answer was simple – to rest at home. I knew deep down that I had a truckload of emotions weighing down on me. Unhappiness, dreadfulness, worries, feelings of being underappreciated, unwanted. The list goes on but I felt that Jesus was inviting me to where I was needed the most- at home.
Home is where I have fights and disagreements from time to time. But it is also a place where I feel appreciated and, more importantly, needed the most. I feel counted and validated that my presence is not in vain or that I would be cast aside. It is a place where I could be myself as my parents would tolerate me and I feel safe because I am in my own space.
I was heavy on the inside because of the hectic semester and with other things on my plate, I knew that Jesus was telling me to pause and take a breather. The gospel of today speaks about the missionary spirit that Jesus is calling us. Everyone is called to take the first step and Jesus will guide you; and some will travel to faraway places, others to nearer places.
The appointment of the 72 people by Jesus and sending them out in pairs shows that Jesus uses ordinary people for special missions to reach out to people of every background or nationality. The reward at the end of the mission which is our eternal salvation is there, but Jesus needs our help to bring more people to the harvest and to show them the path onto him.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest”(Luke 10:1-12, 17-20).
But before we experience the kingdom of God, there will be danger along the journey which will pose a hindrance or threat. However, we are empowered by Jesus to face these evils by being steadfast in faith to welcome people and see where we best can help them in our own way which is to use our own gifts from Jesus.
“Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them,”The kingdom of God is at hand for you”(Luke 10:1-12,17-20).
I felt that the reading was speaking to me, and that I should not give up in reaching out to people who need it the most. The time sacrificed and efforts will pay off in the end I believe. I need to know that even if people forget about me, Jesus will always be there for me because he does not forget his own and will even go to great lengths to find that one lost sheep.
This phrase is the most powerful in the gospel reading – that I am not alone in this fight and madness of life which I must endure everyday.
“Jesus said,”I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to’tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:1-12,17-20).”
It is power like this that would expel darkness and it is definitely not about the power, influence or fame that people hold over each other. It is the power of Jesus that we invoke to dispel the evils in our lives. I fear that people out there can make life difficult and bitter. I hope that Jesus will touch them and that they will give up power which is self-consuming and authoritative.
The challenge that I see in Catholic Youth Day is this: will it continue to stay in the hearts of the young or is it fleeting and temporary? When the occasion comes for it, will the young be empowered to do more? To me, being a Catholic means taking the first step to communicate and listen to others. It is true that we do not communicate with others, let alone Jesus in our prayers? Communication is left to technology and there is hardly any human interaction anymore.
All of us are called to be missionaries. That is the message of Catholic Youth Day to me. If the Church can get a few thousands of youth to come down to an event, then I think the youth can do more to go out there and reach out to even more people. It is not work for a day but it is a way of life, a mindset and a courageous heart.
For the Church to grow, the motivation and joy must not be fleeting; it should be continuous as the spirit does not move only in a place, but the spirit moves every step of the way in our hearts. Catholic Youth Day is a good opportunity but it takes more from Catholics to take the first step with Jesus. For if we do not make it part of our permanent self, then the efforts to build and reach out to the larger community is lost and wasted.
As we pray for the young people to pray and continue to be missionaries in their own special way, we also keep in mind Pope Francis’ intentions for July 2016. That indigenous people, whose identity and very existence are threatened, will be shown due respect. That the Church in Latin America and the Carribean by means of her mission to the continent,may announce the Gospel with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
I am grateful that even though I did not attend Catholic Youth Day, I know that in his own way, I experienced the rejuvenation of God’s word and that sometimes, Jesus does lead us to familiar places where they could be the mostly easily forgotten or overlooked. Praise God!
“Once no people,now God’s people”(1 Peter 2:10).
God Bless as we keep people close to us in our prayers!
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong