by Fabian Oliver

This year, the Catholic Church is focusing on the theme of young people, the faith and vocational discernment. For South African youth, a lot of reflection and consideration must be taken into account in order to transform and integrate the lives of young people into the livelihood of the church.

Challenges faced by Youth

Being young has its fair share of challenges. There exist socio-economic issues such as youth unemployment, the struggles to pay for decent education, and the ever-pressing epidemic of ‘poverty.’ More social issues include teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, violence against women and discrimination of all kinds. With such factors, youth are left somewhat alone in the search to find themselves. Questions like; who am I? Who do I want to become? And what is my purpose in this life are key questions in the life journey of most young people. Here, the church becomes a beautiful platform to bring the message of hope and fulfillment to the hearts of the young people.

The Church and the message of the Gospel

The Church is a constant reminder of the love of God expressed through the ever-present Sacraments. It is here that we discover and are reaffirmed by the words of Saint John Paul II that “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you […] it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise.” The beauty of our faith is revealed in that, in spite of our sufferings, challenges and downfalls, Jesus Christ understands us, loves us and wants to make us complete in the love of God. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of John 16:33 that in this world we will have trouble, but take heart for Christ has overcome the world.

Called to Serve

During World Youth Day in Poland, Pope Francis encouraged youth by saying “life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark.” And how can we leave our mark? By loving God and loving others around us. Young people must find themselves at the service of the church, and the very least of humanity (many of whom are their peers); the poor, the sick, elderly, disabled, abused and abandoned. How many young people live in our country hopeless, broken and without love? Who will go and be God’s mouthpiece to restore their hope? Whom shall the Lord send to restore love to his people?

May 2018 be a year where young people experience and respond to God’s intimate love. In all the challenges that may come, remember to stand firm in the faith.

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