As this year’s National Catholic Youth Conference draws to a conclusion today, my prayer this morning is filled with hopes for our Church and in particular, for the youth of our Church. One of the prayers in this morning’s Liturgy of Hours reminds us that to serve the Lord is our lasting joy!
Who does not want joy in life? One of the many events of yesterday included an hour-long session with about 50 youth and three bishops for a Q. & A. At the end of the session, one young man asked a very profound question of the three bishops on the panel. He asked: “Do you find fulfillment in your life?” What a great question, because it speaks to the great desire of every human heart to find fulfillment. This questions followed a question and discussion about how to discover one’s vocation. How does someone truly know they have made the right choice regarding their vocation?
My response went something like this. I remember, after a rather arduous vocation discernment of my own, finally ‘making it to the altar.’ (I was ordained a priest at the age of 33.) As a young, new priest, just a couple of months into my first assignment, I have a clear recollection of celebrating a Sunday Mass, standing at the altar, looking out at the congregation, and having a strong realization that ‘this is who God created me to be.’ That is fulfillment!
Fulfillment in this life is that simple, that profound. Finding joy and fulfillment is a matter of discovering God’s path, God’s call, God’s ‘mission’ for one’s self. And believe me, God wants to make that calling known to each of us! If one prays with all sincerity to know God’s will, it will become known, and will also be accompanied by a sense of peace.
For us Christians, this will of God is made known to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. The peace that abides in fulfilling God’s will comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a peace we do not give our self, and that is the ‘confirmation’ one seeks after making a decision. True peace comes from the Holy Spirit, and does now allow for self-deception. Similarly, true joy comes from serving the Lord!
The Christian life is not lived for self. This is a tough lesson for our world today. The truth of that came home to me last night as I listened to the main speaker. She was asking questions and prompting responses from the youth. After her ‘build up’ she led the youth to the great summation of the ten commandments given by Jesus and she asked: “Who are we to love?” and the crowd responded: “God!” and then the shocker came when she went for the second part of the great commandment. She then asked: “And we are then to love…” the answer being ‘our neighbor’ but I heard several around me say: ‘our self.’
Now, on the one hand, it shows how self-focused our culture leads us to be. On the other hand, I think it also says a lot about the challenges our young people have today in accepting them selves as they are.
The answer to all of this rests in Jesus. We are called to love Christ. We are called to place Christ at the center of our life, above all else. When Christ has our full attention and our complete devotion, we find our truest self and our greatest fulfillment, because we are being most fully the person God created us to be.
So, Church, let us put Christ first today and always. Thus, we will live … Signed, Sealed, and Delivered.