by Ken Rolheiser
Getting off our sofas and leaving our mark

“Don’t want to be carried to church? Come now.” This quote was found on Pinterest. As well as this gem: Not going to church because of the “hypocrites” is like not going to the gym because of the “out of shape” people.

In planning this article I was thinking of ways to reach the 60 to 70 per cent of our young people who have opted out of attendance at church. According to some sources many of these will not be returning.

But amazing things are happening with the world’s young people. At world Youth Day in Manila 2015 a record six million attended a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. Ways to relate to young people, the Pope suggests, begin with prayer.

Many of us, grand parents in particular, have been praying. But there must be more we can do.

Jesus uses the power of LOVE to transform our lives. It amazes me that God continues to create so many beautiful and young people who are so easy to fall in love with. Many people transform their lives when they fall in love. What a wonderful plan.

But God has other ways to call us. Pope Francis shared a story from his youth when he was on his way to meet up with friends. He was moved to stop in at a church. There he met a priest who transformed his life. That “accidental” meeting with God took the Pope to confession and the beginning of his mission and vocation.

Whatever the causes, most of our youth have opted out of the church. Their disappointments in parents, adults, governments and even church leaders have led many to follow their own rules of right and wrong. Chastity, Sunday worship and church creeds have fallen to more secular life styles.

As Pope Francis does, I would challenge our young people. “Jesus is calling you to leave a mark on history,” the Pope told 1.6 million young people at the World Youth Day in Krakow this month.

Among the stories shared by world youth was Rand, from Syria, who asked us to pray for his beloved country. Natalia and Miguel shared experiences from different cultures. In the young people gathered in Krakow there were conflicting ideologies and fears springing from opposing political and nationalistic viewpoints.

Pope Francis compared the situation to Pentecost and the need for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and to build the fraternity that overcomes hatred and violence. Like at Pentecost, we can be propelled beyond fear and persecution to “undreamt of adventure”.

Pope Francis challenged all of us to avoid confusing happiness with a sofa. Sofas have built-in massage units to put us to sleep. Safe from pain and fear, we are lulled into a “sofa-happiness”. Video games, screens and entertainment give us hours of escape.

The Pope even warned of the easy danger of preferring to have “drowsy and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa”. It is challenging to nurture alert and searching minds to respond to God’s dream for the human heart.

The Pope challenges us to “leave our mark”, to follow Jesus by trading in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes, to take the path of the “craziness” of our God who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, and the refugee, he said.

We need to build bridges, not walls, he challenged.

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