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Ru Yet his thoughts of independence turned into dissolution and excess cf. Nonetheless, he found the strength to make a new start cf.

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Young hearts are naturally ready to change, to turn back, get up and learn from life. How could anyone fail to support that son in this new resolution? Yet his older brother already had a heart grown old; he let himself be possessed by greed, selfishness and envy Lk Jesus praises the young sinner who returned to the right path over the brother who considered himself faithful, yet lacked the spirit of love and mercy.

Jesus, himself eternally young, wants to give us hearts that are ever young. In a word, true youth means having a heart capable of loving, whereas everything that separates us from others makes the soul grow old.


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Let us also keep in mind that Jesus had no use for adults who looked down on the young or lorded it over them. For him age did not establish privileges, and being young did not imply lesser worth or dignity.

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Young people are not meant to become discouraged; they are meant to dream great things, to seek vast horizons, to aim higher, to take on the world, to accept challenges and to offer the best of themselves to the building of something better. In the silence of their heart, they have a store of experiences that can teach us not to make mistakes or be taken in by false promises. It is unhelpful to buy into the cult of youth or foolishly to dismiss others simply because they are older or from another generation. Jesus tells us that the wise are able to bring forth from their store things both new and old cf.

Mt A wise young person is open to the future, yet still capable of learning something from the experience of others.

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We should never repent of spending our youth being good, opening our heart to the Lord, and living differently. Late have I loved you! Mk On the other hand, in the Gospel of Matthew we find a young man cf. Yet his spirit was not really that young, for he had already become attached to riches and comforts. He said he wanted something more, but when Jesus asked him to be generous and distribute his goods, he realized that he could not let go of everything he had. He had given up his youth.

The Gospel also speaks about a group of wise young women, who were ready and waiting, while others were distracted and slumbering cf. We can, in fact, spend our youth being distracted, skimming the surface of life, half-asleep, incapable of cultivating meaningful relationships or experiencing the deeper things in life. In this way, we can store up a paltry and unsubstantial future. Or we can spend our youth aspiring to beautiful and great things, and thus store up a future full of life and interior richness.

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To be sure, many other passages of the word of God can shed light on this stage of your life. We will take up some of them in the following chapters. Mt on a cross when he was little more than thirty years of age cf. Lk It is important to realize that Jesus was a young person. That ending was not something that simply happened; rather, his entire youth, at every moment, was a precious preparation for it. The last images we have of Jesus as a child are those of a tiny refugee in Egypt cf.

Mt and repatriated in Nazareth cf. Our first image of Jesus as a young adult shows him standing among the crowds on the banks of the Jordan river to be baptized by his kinsman John the Baptist, just like any other member of his people cf. Jesus immediately appeared filled with the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the desert. There he prepared to go forth to preach and to work miracles, to bring freedom and healing cf.


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Between these two accounts, we find another, which shows Jesus as an adolescent, when he had returned with his parents to Nazareth, after being lost and found in the Temple cf. Lk ; he did not disown his family. In a word, this was a time of preparation, when Jesus grew in his relationship with the Father and with others.

His adolescence and his youth set him on the path to that sublime mission. Still, it must not be thought that Jesus was a withdrawn adolescent or a self-absorbed youth. His relationships were those of a young person who shared fully in the life of his family and his people.

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This detail shows that he was just another young person of his town, who related normally to others. No one regarded him as unusual or set apart from others. Surely, they assumed, Jesus was there, mingling with the others, joking with other young people, listening to the adults tell stories and sharing the joys and sorrows of the group. Thanks to the trust of his parents, Jesus can move freely and learn to journey with others.

This involves growing in a relationship with the Father, in awareness of being part of a family and a people, and in openness to being filled with the Holy Spirit and led to carry out the mission God gives them, their personal vocation. None of this should be overlooked in pastoral work with young people, lest we create projects that isolate young people from their family and the larger community, or turn them into a select few, protected from all contamination. Rather, we need projects that can strengthen them, accompany them and impel them to encounter others, to engage in generous service, in mission.

Jesus does not teach you, young people, from afar or from without, but from within your very youth, a youth he shares with you. It is very important for you to contemplate the young Jesus as presented in the Gospels, for he was truly one of you, and shares many of the features of your young hearts. He showed profound compassion for the weakest, especially the poor, the sick, sinners and the excluded. He had the courage to confront the religious and political authorities of his time; he knew what it was to feel misunderstood and rejected; he experienced the fear of suffering and he knew the frailty of the Passion.

On the other hand, Jesus is risen, and he wants to make us sharers in the new life of the resurrection. With him at our side, we can drink from the true wellspring that keeps alive all our dreams, our projects, our great ideals, while impelling us to proclaim what makes life truly worthwhile.

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Two curious details in the Gospel of Mark show how those risen with Christ are called to authentic youth. The Lord is calling us to enkindle stars in the night of other young people. He asks you to look to the true stars, all those varied signs he gives us to guide our way, and to imitate the farmer who watches the stars before going out to plough his field. Youth is more than simply a period of time; it is a state of mind. That is why an institution as ancient as the Church can experience renewal and a return to youth at different points in her age-old history.

Indeed, at the most dramatic moments of her history, she feels called to return with all her heart to her first love. Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill. But let us also ask him to free her from another temptation: that of thinking she is young because she accepts everything the world offers her, thinking that she is renewed because she sets her message aside and acts like everybody else. The Church is young when she shows herself capable of constantly returning to her source.

Certainly, as members of the Church, we should not stand apart from others. Yet at the same time we must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship.

Young people can help keep her young. They can stop her from becoming corrupt; they can keep her moving forward, prevent her from being proud and sectarian, help her to be poorer and to bear better witness, to take the side of the poor and the outcast, to fight for justice and humbly to let herself be challenged.

Those of us who are no longer young need to find ways of keeping close to the voices and concerns of young people. This means humbly acknowledging that some things concretely need to change, and if that is to happen, she needs to appreciate the vision but also the criticisms of young people. Some even ask expressly to be left alone, as they find the presence of the Church a nuisance, even an irritant. This request does not always stem from uncritical or impulsive contempt. Although many young people are happy to see a Church that is humble yet confident in her gifts and capable of offering fair and fraternal criticism, others want a Church that listens more, that does more than simply condemn the world.

They do not want to see a Church that is silent and afraid to speak, but neither one that is always battling obsessively over two or three issues. To be credible to young people, there are times when she needs to regain her humility and simply listen, recognizing that what others have to say can provide some light to help her better understand the Gospel.