As young Christians, we are often challenged by the prevailing currents of our time. In the modern world in which we live, we are bombarded daily by the sweeping effects of secularism, fuelled by our relativistic culture, testing our resolve and asking questions of the conviction we hold. In light of this trend, it is all too easy to succumb to the pressures of this fast and consumer driven world, the ease of which has led many down the road of doubt and uncertainty. It is at this crossroads that we find ourselves – a generation at a point where it ponders how much more it can take, building for itself a culture of “whatever” to avoid inconvenient absolutes, confused in the murky waters of modern society as it stumbles blindly to some distorted, politically correct truth.
However, a welcoming challenge looms over the horizon. It is the challenge of Christ – who beckons us to respond to these changing times with zeal and fervent conviction in the Truth that is found in Him who is also the Way and thus also the Life. Throughout the history of the Church, we have seen obstacle after obstacle weigh her down, only to be overcome by the Grace of God in the generations which rose up to meet these challenges. Once again, we find ourselves met with new burdens and challenges, which call for a generation of people to rise and meet these head on.
This is that generation.
Amidst the encircling vultures and the grim outlook of this future, young people throughout the world have responded to the Lord’s call with great vigour, echoed in the words of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II,
“The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm in order to penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and structures of society in order to create a society of true justice and love.”-Pope John Paul II
It is on this note that we meet “Jesus Youth” – an international ministry for youth evangelization – which has gained a foothold in New Zealand and now works to fervently respond to the challenges of secularism in Aotearoa. Like an enclosed fire, the faith of Jesus Youth burns strong in its passion to pursue the Truth of life in Christ, and to promulgate the resonating fulfilment of following Him. I recently bore witness to this – at their annual “Exult 2011” retreat, held at Piha Beach on Auckland’s west coast. There, I saw an immense fire of charismatic faith in these young people, kindled by their love for Christ, fuelled by their songs of praise and culminating in the words of Auckland’s Shepherd, the Most Reverend Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland. Inspiring the youth to action, Bishop Dunn implored all who were there to take up their cross and face down the challenges of secular society, bringing Christ to wherever we were called to be. In accepting this challenge, the youth were called upon to take courage and accept that living by faith would challenge us daily but will ultimately reward those who submitted to Christ. It was a call to nourish one’s own faith so as to be equipped with the necessary strength and grace to fulfil Christ’s great commission for our lives. It was a call to rebuild the Church, to restore its moral credibility in the public sphere and persevere in this time of tribulation, ever hopeful as it purifies itself from sin – brick by brick, stone by stone. It was a call to hope – that He who leads us will strengthen us as we continue His work in the dying regions of human consciousness.
The challenges we are presented with are undoubtedly great, lest anyone be fooled.
However, these challenges pale in comparison to the Truth we have been empowered with, of hope in the Risen Christ and in the revealing power of the paraclete which works within us. May the Lord’s blessing be upon Jesus Youth in their mission to bring people to Christ, and may their example inspire us all to follow Christ more earnestly and with greater passion, and to bless others with that same hope and freedom.
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, Hope.”