My son Joseph just made his first flight at five and a half months old. Teresa and I were prepared for weeks for this first of many adventures, and like most people flying with their child for the first time–we weren’t sure what to expect. Let me quickly take you through our experience: we boarded the plane, seated ourselves, took off, fed Joseph, smiled at each other while Joseph slept, and rejoiced. We did it, right? Well, almost. The last 15 minutes of the hour and a half flight were a little bumpy (in more ways than one). You see, Joseph is our world. Those of you who are parents know, living with an infant is full of laughter and tears, memories and joy, and well, sleep deprivation. Even though it can be a struggle to get up at 3:00 AM, it’s worth every bit. The problem only comes when our sweet little world becomes everyone else’s–especially on a long and stuffy flight. Needless to say, Joseph wasn’t very happy toward the end. And while Teresa and I were shuffling around, warming food and taking out every toy imaginable, others were putting in their ear buds and burying their heads behind iPads and in-flight magazines. Well, almost everyone; there was one woman sitting behind us who said something that gave us a smidgen of relief. After a four-hour delay, she leaned forward to Teresa and softly said, “it’s OK, he’s just voicing what we’re all feeling.” We laughed politely and continued tending to Joseph’s needs. Those words flew by in the moment. After all, we were still concerned with the dirty looks and over-exaggerated groans coming from the few around us. But as we walked off that plane, got in our car, settled in our room and sat on our bed, we were reminded of the woman’s kind words, and she got me thinking…
Aren’t the saints something like a baby on a plane? Saints burst into this world and make the most rambunctious of noises imaginable for Jesus. They could not care less about embarrassment and ridicule and mockery. Think about it. What do you think St. Francis did when someone gave him a dirty look after preaching on a public street, his habit a patchwork of used clothes and him smelling like…well, not the pleasant scent of incense from inside the church? You guessed it–he preached even louder.
We like to think we live in a pretty balanced society, but the truth is, we don’t. We live in a society that is starving for meaning and truth. And while we, in and of ourselves, are not the answer the world is looking for–Jesus is. And He’s called us to be His hands, feet and voice in a time that needs it most. This was and is the life purpose of St. Paul as we read in Sunday’s second reading. St. Paul said what we are so often nervous about saying. He lived a way in which we are so often afraid of living. And just like Joseph did for that lady on the plane, St. Paul voices what many of us want as the theme of our life, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.”
Jesus is the answer the world is looking for. And He’s put Himself in your hands and mine to deliver this saving answer boldly and without fear. All of us, young and old, are commissioned by Jesus to be disciples of His love; no longer living for ourselves, but now for Him through His mystical body—the Church. What does that look like? It looks like daily conversations with Him, regular confession and reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, and consistent and active study–learning the wisdom given us by those who walked closest with Him.
Young people, you are not too young for this. You are not too young to read the heroes of our faith and pass on their stories to your friends. You are not too young to invite a friend to stand with you in line at your local parish church and confess your sins to Jesus. You are not too young to find the freedom that you seek; and once you’ve found it, I guarantee you’ll want to share it. You are not too young to show your parents, school, and friends a love which was never thought possible. You are the Church. You are His hands and feet. You are a result of His love.
Let St. Paul’s words be your own; listen to them new and let them echo deep within your heart: It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Tune into the ways that Jesus is calling you this very day to be a sign of His love and an instrument of His care for a desperately hurting world. This, my friends, is the life Jesus is calling both you and me to live.