Youth is a blessing and a call to life, a phase not only marked by dreams and hopes, but also by experiences and options that shape a life project.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2021
What does it mean, then, to be young? It will certainly be more than a transition phase between childhood and adulthood. But what is the specificity of youth? What distinguishes this phase from the others?
Youth is a phase of personality development, marked by dreams, experiences, and options that shape a life project. This is a challenging moment: A time to look and launch into the future without cutting roots and without abandoning those who, having already passed that stage, accompany the young person throughout the process.
In fact, without our feet on the ground, dreams become an illusion, a utopia, and without the possibility of concrete realization. On the contrary, hope lived with the boldness of ‘being young’ is marked by responsible discernment–accompanied and in view of an authentic future. In this case, hope becomes feasible and assumes itself as a blessing and gift from God.
Youth as a Blessing
We know little about Jesus’ youth. We do not know the events, but we can deduce that, like all young people, Jesus also lived His youth as a time of discernment, prayer and, without doubt, as a time of hope.
Let us look now at the episode of the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5, 21-24; 35-43), a passage that allows us to deepen the meaning of ‘being young’ from the encounter with Christ.
At the beginning of the narrative, Jairus’ daughter is spoken of as a girl (Mark 5, 39). However, the presence of Jesus shows her as a youth–Jesus calls her a girl (Mark 5, 41) and links this call to a responsibility, to an attitude towards life before her: “Girl, get up!” (Talitá Kum).
This is the challenge of the young person who assumes himself/herself as such, starting from the encounter with Christ: The young person leaves the comfortable inertia of the sofa and the apathy towards the circumstances that surround him/her, to get up hand in hand with Christ.
Getting up is never an easy process and one that always causes astonishment (Mark 5,42b) on those who have become accustomed to seeing the child and who are now frightened by the newness of the youth that is assumed and imposed.
However, it is important to remember that youth does not happen by chance! God is there! “Youth is a blessed time for the young and a grace for the Church and for the world. It is a joy, a song of hope and a blessing. Making the most of our youthful years entails seeing this season of life as worthwhile in itself, and not simply as a brief prelude to adulthood” (Christ Lives, no. 135).
From Dream To Hope
Youth is not compatible with the resignation to live by following others’ thoughts. Rather, it is a time of dream and true hope. During this period, despite challenges and uncertainties, the love of God– the encounter with Christ–manifests itself and accompanies the dreams of young people.
This accompaniment–so often personified by those who accompany the vocational discernment of young people–is not a time to restrict future horizons.
On the contrary, God’s love invites us to get up; to be responsible for the future that lies ahead of us; to live a more authentic life in the present, and move towards a happy future, no matter how hard the circumstances that surround us are.
On this responsibility of being young, Pope Francis warns of the fact that “opposed to these hopes and dreams that generate decisions, there is always the temptation to complain or give up.
“We can leave that to those who worship the ‘goddess of lament’… She is a false goddess; she makes you take the wrong road” (Christ Lives, no. 141).
The boldness of perseverance is characteristic of being young. However, it cannot succumb either to the temptation of the excesses of stubbornness, nor to be taken lightly–which would lead to living according to a deceptive perspective, typical of anxiety.
The results of the path of hope are not immediate! It takes determination, a lot of patience and, above all, a lot of love and faith in the One who calls us daily to live in harmony with our youth. Dreams fade if they don’t become true hope. Dreams, without hope, succumb to the desire for haste and the desire for the immediate.
Being young does not mean to ‘perform here and now’; rather, it means to ‘believe that it will come true’. The boldness to persevere precedes (and must always be greater) the boldness of doing! A house of paper is made in a few minutes. Whereas to make a house of stone takes months! The first, in a flash, falls apart. The second exists and remains for life.
This is what it means to be young: to live not for momentary pleasure, but for an authentic life of happiness. It is not only a question of telling a young person to give up the dream of ‘building a house’ but also of building from the encounter with Christ in a durable way, a future that goes beyond any utopian dream.
Don’t Be Parked Cars
This path and durable construction can be covered! Therefore, let us not fail to hear and echo Pope Francis’ words: “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anaesthetized or approach the world like tourists. Make a ruckus! Cast out the fears that paralyze you, so that you don’t become young mummies. Live! Give yourselves over to the best of life! Open the door of the cage, go out and fly! Please, don’t take early retirement” (Christ Lives, no. 143).