By Pastor Julian Harris
As JESUS was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
What a blessing to have a young person respect his elders for their wisdom and ask for help and guidance in achieving his hope for a beautiful future, in this case, to inherit eternal life. What will you say when your son, your daughter or some child whom you have never met asks you what they must do to have a life worth living? Have you ever thought about it or are you too busy getting by? God knows how hard it is just to get by. But if you don’t tell them, or have the words to say when they ask, well, someone else will and remember, the devil is in the streets. Victor Frankl once said: He who has a “why” to live for can bear with almost any “how”. (Man’s Search for Meaning, 121). A person needs hope to live.
Here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave our youth are born into a society where dreams are unlimited by possibilities. Truly, they can reach for the stars:
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.
Here it’s what you know, not whom you know that makes the difference. For most of the world, kids are born in a dream-free zone. No dream, no matter how modest, is scarcely obtainable because of external circumstances like poverty and social immobility. There is much talk today about empowering women, youth, and overcoming the obstacles erected by poverty to attaining a good life. Senior advisor to His Holiness Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez of Honduras speaks of poverty of dreams:
Especially among the poor, the young are the poorest…we have millions of young people who have the right to find a better world where there are opportunities for them, not only death and hunger. (Interview in America, 4 October 2012)
Hope must have a human horizon that finds its fulfillment in the divine. You cannot tell a teenager that all she has to look forward to in this life is hardship and a hard death with an eternal reward in the next life! It is a strong argument against reincarnation; who would like to repeat a life doomed to hunger, unrealized dreams and death?
Hope is hard work. It is the fruit of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice. We might offer encouragement to young people with advice from Sir Winston Churchill when he and the British people faced invasion and destruction beneath the Nazi Luftwaffe:
I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be…
This is rare from a politician, and for that matter from educators, professional religious and activists and advocates who deceive youth into a false expectation of receiving money for nothing, drinks for free, subsidies, education without debt or grades and an uninterrupted “Atta boy” and “Go, girl” no matter how lame their effort. Excluding criminals and heirs/heiresses, surely we mere mortals know by now that no individual ever achieves anything worth having except through sacrifice and self-denial, through an education that teaches right from wrong and training in virtue to develop a character and strength of will not only to recognize the good—theoretically—but to also to choose to do good—practically. We must impress our youth with a fundamental Catholic principle: You cannot do a little evil to achieve a great good or any good at all.
Evil is leaven and will overwhelm
the good, the true and the beautiful every time.
Self-restraint does not stifle creativity, deny individuality or suppressing personality. Every instinct and impulse in either a young person or an adult does not necessarily produce good results. Impulse control is best learned young. All people have a hunting instinct which is good when directed to finding mushrooms, mineral deposits and quail in season, but bad when directed at parents, the police and neighbors in or out of season. Disrespect for legitimate authority and this season of lawlessness springs from the fallacy that every individual determines his or her own right and wrong.
Young people have an intellect for knowledge and a will to make decisions based on that knowledge, not instinct. If her choices are wrong, she will be wrong regardless of how much she knows. Education does not necessarily make a person good. Education can demonstrably make learned devils instead of clueless devils, but devils they remain. Education and training of youth is successful when it trains the mind to see the right goals, and disciplines the will to choose those goals rather than selfish, foolish pursuits.
There are two opposing forces focused on our young people. The Sacred Force develops moral character both in the individual and the nation; the Secular Force indoctrinates the surrender of morality and personal responsibility through a collectivist mentality or state in which there will be no individual morality or conscience.
Young people yearn for something hard. They know in their hearts that good or evil is not merely a point of view and is irrelevant to which they believe. Youth want to believe that something is so evil that they ought to fight against it, and something is so good that they ought to steel and discipline themselves and even die to defend it. One of these forces will capture the energy, hopes and creativity of young people within the next generation. The greatest responsibility falls on parents, priests, Faith Formation teachers, military instructors and school-room teachers and all who play a role in initiating youth to adulthood. We must show self-discipline and moral courage in our own lives first in order to give them a credible example worth following! What must they do to have a life worth living and a society in which to live that life? Restrain evil impulses, practice self-control and patience, work hard, be altruistic and above all things and all people, love God in Christ. AMEN.