“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”
Recently, a fifteen year old boy told me that he turned to alcohol and drugs when his parents announced their divorce. A child’s eating disorder returned with a vengeance a week after she discovered that her mother was having an affair. Still another teenager turned to drugs when both his parents were diagnosed with cancer!
In time of trouble, what do I turn to? As a Christian, it should never be something or someone, but rather the Only One: Jesus Christ! Yes, Jesus Christ! I know what you are thinking. I know what you are saying! Give me a break? Is He the answer to everything? Is He the solution to all our problems? I am not embarrassed to say (or naïve when I say) with a loud voice: YES! He is!
I don’t need to break any Commandments to get ahead. I don’t need to be a inhaling or exhaling any illegal substances in order to feel good. I don’t need to get smashed or drunk in order to not think about all my problems. I simply need to know that I am not alone – that there is not someone but the only one with me that can truly help me.
All of the above cases will end in disaster if these kids don’t turn to Him, the Lord, in time of trouble, and allow themselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday, I celebrated Mass for a big group of teenagers on retreat. Although the Mass conflicted with my own retreat, I was more than happy to be with them. For most of these kids, this would be their only retreat during the year. I thought to myself, “What a wonderful opportunity it would be a part of their joy!” Boy was I wrong! When I got there, I immediately realized that something was wrong. Almost none of the two hundred students in the room talked to me or smiled at me. In fact, they were not smiling at anyone or at anything! As the day progressed, things only got worse. When the moment arrived for Mass, no one said a word. I said, “The Lord be with you!” and only a handful of kids (or a few brave ones) said, “And also with you.” I couldn’t believe it! What in the world was going on? After all, almost all of these kids came from our Catholic schools. Almost all of them were Catholic!
Finally, at the start of the homily, I jumped off the stage and walked up close to them, and asked them some very pointed questions. I said, “What is going on with you? What poison have you been drinking? Who stripped away your smile? Is there anything that Christ did that you would disagree with? Is there any reason to not respond to his love? I continued to walk around and continued to speak candidly. “I am here today to tell you that He wants you to become more like Him. There are so many people in this world waiting and hoping that you will be like Jesus Christ. Who wouldn’t want to be like him? Can anyone tell me what they most appreciate about Jesus? Then I went up to one student and waited for his answer. The young man replied, “He died for us.” I said, “True. He did what most of us would be afraid to do. He laid down his life for me even though I still did not believe in Him or love Him. It would be hard to die for someone you love. It would be harder still to die for someone who does not love you! Jesus did it. I could only hope that one day I would have the courage to do the same for you. What else...” I walked up to another student. A young girl answered, “He performed miracles.” “Yes!” I replied. “He performed miracles. Do you realize that you can do the same too? You can surprise someone today by doing something unexpected? How many of you could surprise someone with your love, your forgiveness and your compassion? How many of you could surprise someone by your sacrifice of time, or money or talents? We believe in a God who came into the world not to serve but to be served!”
By the end of the Mass they were starting to get it! By the end of the retreat the vast majority had gotten it! We had broken the spell. They had come back to life. They were smiling, singing and laughing once again! They were full of life.