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Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Church, as community, carries out the work of Jesus by entering into the cultural religious, and social reality of the people...she is able to preach the need for conversion of everyone, to affirm the dignity of the human person, and to seek ways to eradicate personal sin, oppressive structures, and forms of injustice.
National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, no. 13
Our faith tells us that goodness is possible because God acts for us.
God chooses us and plants the desire for himself in every human heart.
God invites us to be transformed into holy people, to
participate and find support in a community of believers, and to make this transformation happen by continually saying "yes" to Jesus' invitation to "Come, follow me" (Lk 18:22). This "yes" means, in the words of Aida Salgado, a young adult from Texas, "to share with others the Christ that came down from the cross to make his dwelling inside each of us." It is becoming people of great faith—sons and daughters of the light.
It is this deepening of one's spirituality through faith in Jesus Christ that provides the foundation and lens for life. In a world of shifting values, Jesus Christ offers us a solid foundation. He is the one constant who will not change. In times of confusion and doubt, our commitment to follow the lead of Jesus Christ can bring us a hope-filled vision for our world. In the midst of life's many and unpredictable changes, the Church's tradition resounds with God's hopes and dreams for young adults.
What does it mean to be a holy or spiritual person? Simply put, it is
God's call to be in union with Christ. "You have been told . . . what is
good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to
love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mi 6:8). To be holy is
to live according to the Gospel—to be grounded in Christ Jesus. It is
the ever-present challenge to be a people of heartfelt compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (cf. Col
3:12). It is a call to embrace the beatitudes—to be poor in spirit, to
comfort, to be meek, to be merciful, to be peacemakers (see Mt 5:3-11).
It entails listening and meditating on the word of God and actively
participating in the Eucharist and the sacramental life of the Church.
It is to pray individually and as a community and to pray often.24
It is an invitation to bring a heightened sense of the presence of
Jesus Christ into the regular rhythms of life: going to school or work,
raising a family, and participating in civic life.
The journey toward holiness is the path toward finding and satisfying our hunger for meaning, making something worthwhile out of our lives. It urges us to reach beyond ourselves in service to our families and other relationships, to our work, to our communities, and to our Church; to be zealous in the pursuit of justice for the poor, the marginalized, the unborn, the elderly, the suffering, and the brokenhearted. "The vocation to love, understood as true openness to our fellow human beings and solidarity with them, is the most basic of all vocations. It is the origin of all vocations in life."25 It is inseparable from our love for God.26
This deepening of faith in Jesus Christ leads us to a vision of what life can be. It may require acts of courage to accomplish great things for humanity. During this journey, we do not travel alone. We share with all believers the struggle: "I'm on the battlefield for my Lord. I promise him that I will serve him till I die" (African Spiritual). The "call to holiness is [then] a gift from the Holy Spirit. [Our] response is a gift to the Church and to the world."27
Today's young adults are at a disadvantage...there is a story and a face with each one of these lives...We are the generation that has grown up in broken families. We have gay and lesbian friends who want to be accepted for who they are. We have friends struggling with their sexuality yet feel as if they cannot discuss it. We have friends and family members who are divorces; we have friends whoa re single and pregnant...
Matthew T. Dunn, Beavercreek, Ohio
The challenge of being transformed into a holy person is not undertaken
alone but within a faith community. Young adults repeatedly told us of
their desire to find and to participate in communities that accept and
welcome them, where people hold values and beliefs similar to their own.
This longing for community touches each of us at the very core of our
being. It is basic to being human, not "an extraneous addition, but a
requirement" of our nature.28 Within the community, we
develop our potential, foster our talents, form our identity, and
respond to the many challenges of being holy men and women. Community is
not only an abstract principle but also a concrete reality lived each
day at home, on campus, within society, and in organizations, movements,
Community is God's promise to those who have accepted the gracious invitation to live the gospel and to be lights for the world. Claimed by Christ and baptized into the Holy Spirit, all have become full members of the Church, worthy of the love, the respect, and the support of the entire Christian community.29 This communion of faith is a communion of charisms, of gifts and talents, a place where young adults participate not only as receivers but also as contributors.30 This communion of the Church, rooted in God's love, offers young adults the vision, purpose, and foundation for the healing that they long for in the midst of life's painful experiences.
People of all ages voice the need for reconciliation and healing as a result of failed relationships, abuse and addictions, sexual permissiveness, violence on the streets, broken or violent homes, unemployment, discrimination in all of its forms, rejection, and loneliness. Christ's redemption is the basis for this healing. The community of faith is the place where the healing power of Jesus touches people and, through them, our neighborhoods, cities, and society. In the sacraments —especially reconciliation and the eucharist—young adults meet the healing presence of the Lord and receive the strength and the grace to confront the many challenges of living a Christian lifestyle.
The call to Christian holiness and community demands a mutuality of relationships. As young adults strive to grow ever more faithful to their new life in Christ, so too the whole Church endeavors to celebrate the gift of her young adults. The Church recognizes the Holy Spirit working through them in their energy, creativity, participation, and leadership.
In the same way, we are called to hear their pain. The Church must be open to learn from their experiences, anxieties, uncertainties, and honest and constructive questioning. "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish . . . especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well."31
I feel that the Church can be a place where young adults return for reassurance during critical times of insecurity and searching. We need a safe place to talk about faith, or lack of faith, and a community to support us and let us know that examination and uncertainty are all part of the journey.
Heather Thomae, Little Rock, Ark.
As I responded to the call of Christ found through prayer, Scripture, and church tradition, I decided that the only true response for these gifts would be one of service...I began to teach other young adults about that which helped me so much...I watched many young adults begin to seriously grapple with their own faith questions and then begin to seriously follow Christ.
Lisa Klewicki, Glendale, CA
The person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization; it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the Kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.
Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 24
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