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Part Two: A Vision of Faith for Young Adults

 

Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.



What can the Church offer to fulfill the spiritual hunger of young adults? The Church can offer them a vision of life based on a faith that calls each of them to holiness, community, and service. In the previous section, we discussed what life is like for young adults today. Now we wish to share a vision of how this life can be lived through the lens of Christian faith, where young adults see their search for identity, relationships, work, and spiritual life in relation to Christ's call to holiness, community, and service. We want to paint a picture of what it means for young adults to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. This commitment begins by accepting God's call to life with him. It is nourished through a community of faith where we grow in holiness. It is lived daily as each person works to transform the world according to God's plan.

The Church, as community, carries out the work of Jesus by entering into the cultural religious, and social reality of the people...she is able to preach the need for conversion of everyone, to affirm the dignity of the human person, and to seek ways to eradicate personal sin, oppressive structures, and forms of injustice. 
National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, no. 13

Accepting God's Invitation

Our faith tells us that goodness is possible because God acts for us. God chooses us and plants the desire for himself in every human heart. God invites us to be transformed into holy people, to
participate and find support in a community of believers, and to make this transformation happen by continually saying "yes" to Jesus' invitation to "Come, follow me" (Lk 18:22). This "yes" means, in the words of Aida Salgado, a young adult from Texas, "to share with others the Christ that came down from the cross to make his dwelling inside each of us." It is becoming people of great faith—sons and daughters of the light.

It is this deepening of one's spirituality through faith in Jesus Christ that provides the foundation and lens for life. In a world of shifting values, Jesus Christ offers us a solid foundation. He is the one constant who will not change. In times of confusion and doubt, our commitment to follow the lead of Jesus Christ can bring us a hope-filled vision for our world. In the midst of life's many and unpredictable changes, the Church's tradition resounds with God's hopes and dreams for young adults.

The Call to Holiness—Growing in Jesus Christ

What does it mean to be a holy or spiritual person? Simply put, it is God's call to be in union with Christ. "You have been told . . . what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mi 6:8). To be holy is to live according to the Gospel—to be grounded in Christ Jesus. It is the ever-present challenge to be a people of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (cf. Col 3:12). It is a call to embrace the beatitudes—to be poor in spirit, to comfort, to be meek, to be merciful, to be peacemakers (see Mt 5:3-11). It entails listening and meditating on the word of God and actively participating in the Eucharist and the sacramental life of the Church. It is to pray individually and as a community and to pray often.24 It is an invitation to bring a heightened sense of the presence of Jesus Christ into the regular rhythms of life: going to school or work, raising a family, and participating in civic life.

The journey toward holiness is the path toward finding and satisfying our hunger for meaning, making something worthwhile out of our lives. It urges us to reach beyond ourselves in service to our families and other relationships, to our work, to our communities, and to our Church; to be zealous in the pursuit of justice for the poor, the marginalized, the unborn, the elderly, the suffering, and the brokenhearted. "The vocation to love, understood as true openness to our fellow human beings and solidarity with them, is the most basic of all vocations. It is the origin of all vocations in life."25 It is inseparable from our love for God.26

This deepening of faith in Jesus Christ leads us to a vision of what life can be. It may require acts of courage to accomplish great things for humanity. During this journey, we do not travel alone. We share with all believers the struggle: "I'm on the battlefield for my Lord. I promise him that I will serve him till I die" (African Spiritual). The "call to holiness is [then] a gift from the Holy Spirit. [Our] response is a gift to the Church and to the world."27

Today's young adults are at a disadvantage...there is a story and a face with each one of these lives...We are the generation that has grown up in broken families.  We have gay and lesbian friends who want to be accepted for who they are.  We have friends struggling with their sexuality yet feel as if they cannot discuss it.  We have friends and family members who are divorces; we have friends whoa re single and pregnant...
Matthew T. Dunn, Beavercreek, Ohio

The Call to Community—Nourishing Faith

The challenge of being transformed into a holy person is not undertaken alone but within a faith community. Young adults repeatedly told us of their desire to find and to participate in communities that accept and welcome them, where people hold values and beliefs similar to their own. This longing for community touches each of us at the very core of our being. It is basic to being human, not "an extraneous addition, but a requirement" of our nature.28 Within the community, we develop our potential, foster our talents, form our identity, and respond to the many challenges of being holy men and women. Community is not only an abstract principle but also a concrete reality lived each day at home, on campus, within society, and in organizations, movements, and parishes.

Community is God's promise to those who have accepted the gracious invitation to live the gospel and to be lights for the world. Claimed by Christ and baptized into the Holy Spirit, all have become full members of the Church, worthy of the love, the respect, and the support of the entire Christian community.29  This communion of faith is a communion of charisms, of gifts and talents, a place where young adults participate not only as receivers but also as contributors.30 This communion of the Church, rooted in God's love, offers young adults the vision, purpose, and foundation for the healing that they long for in the midst of life's painful experiences.

People of all ages voice the need for reconciliation and healing as a result of failed relationships, abuse and addictions, sexual permissiveness, violence on the streets, broken or violent homes, unemployment, discrimination in all of its forms, rejection, and loneliness. Christ's redemption is the basis for this healing. The community of faith is the place where the healing power of Jesus touches people and, through them, our neighborhoods, cities, and society. In the sacraments —especially reconciliation and the eucharist—young adults meet the healing presence of the Lord and receive the strength and the grace to confront the many challenges of living a Christian lifestyle.

The call to Christian holiness and community demands a mutuality of relationships. As young adults strive to grow ever more faithful to their new life in Christ, so too the whole Church endeavors to celebrate the gift of her young adults. The Church recognizes the Holy Spirit working through them in their energy, creativity, participation, and leadership.

In the same way, we are called to hear their pain. The Church must be open to learn from their experiences, anxieties, uncertainties, and honest and constructive questioning. "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish . . . especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well."31

I feel that the Church can be a place where young adults return for reassurance during critical times of insecurity and searching.  We need a safe place to talk about faith, or lack of faith, and a community to support us and let us know that examination and uncertainty are all part of the journey. 
Heather Thomae, Little Rock, Ark.

The Call to Service—Living Faith in the World

The challenge of faith is to be a credible witness to the power of the Gospel in the world today. we are inspired by the stories of young adults whose enthusiasm and service build up the reign of God on earth. Their thirst for knowledge, their efforts to maintain a life of integrity, their respect for differences among all peoples, their care for their children and the unborn, and their service through volunteer and missionary activity all form a worthy testament to the role of young adults in living out their faith.

We have spoken on several occasions about the call to Christian adulthood, most recently in our document on the laity entitled Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium. There we highlighted the many marks of a mature Christian: an awareness of the significance of education, especially the ability to make good decisions based on the teachings of the Church; the necessity for adult catechesis and other means of faith development; the importance of discerning one's talents in order to exercise them more effectively; learning to live with mystery and ambiguity; and participation in family, neighborhood, government, and society in ways that bring the gospel principles of justice, compassion, and mercy truly alive. These aspects of Christian maturity call all men and women to an understanding that "we are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful."32

For young adults, as for all Catholic adults, the Catholic faith is lived in the "ordinary dynamics of life—caring for a family, job responsibilities, exercising duties of citizenship."33 This is what discipleship is all about. The world is the place where men and women fulfill their Christian vocation. The mission of the Church is not directed at itself, but at nurturing and forming people who "are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties."34

Through the call to holiness, community, and service through lived faith, the whole Church provides the necessary support for young adults to be disciples of Christ living their faith, nourished by the Church, and proclaiming with the prophets of old: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19).

As I responded to the call of Christ found through prayer, Scripture, and church tradition, I decided that the only true response for these gifts would be one of service...I began to teach other young adults about that which helped me so much...I watched many young adults begin to seriously grapple with their own faith questions and then begin to seriously follow Christ. 
Lisa Klewicki, Glendale, CA

The person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others.  Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization; it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the Kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn. 
Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 24

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