Saturday, February 2, 2013

Great questions and living well

St. Paul the Apostle parish here in Kingston has a thriving Youth Ministry, thanks to the vision of pastor Fr. Leo Byrne, and the indomitable energy of the Youth Coordinator Nadia Gundert - along with her husband Mike and a great support group of Team Leaders. There are actually two programs: LifeTeen (for high school kids), and EDGE (for grades 5 to 8). I try to be a resource to both, and I am constantly amazed at the energy and the 'buy in' of what appear to me to be pretty ordinary kids. The LifeTeen meeting leads in to the 730pm Mass on Sunday. Something you will never see anywhere else happens here after Mass: parents are waiting in the gathering area of the Church while their kids are hanging out IN the church yakking with each other. Wasn't it always the other way around?

Activities I like in both groups are the question and answer sessions that go with certain of the meetings. Questions are always stimulating, challenging, thought-provoking and even tricky! The other night at EDGE it was about the last line of the Apostle's Creed: "I believe in ..... the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting." Having to do with judgement and eternity! Heavy duty! Big questions about resurrected bodies, about Jesus' body after his resurrection, and how his friends did not even recognize him at first. The whole judgement thing. And why does it say Jesus "descended into hell"? Then this, my favourite of the evening: Will we have an idea in this life if we are going to heaven or hell? 

I answered that one with the image of a grown-up friend - might be a teacher or grandparent or adult whom you have come to know really well - who is crazy about you, and wants you and all kinds of other people to come over to their house. Promising you a wonderful time with people you love. Promising your safety. Promising you no-one will ever hurt you, and you cannot get sick there. Then one day this friend sees you outside the house, but you are throwing eggs at the house. You are beating up on other people (s)he has invited. You have a rock ready to throw. You have a can of spray paint ready. When he comes to ask you if you really want to come in to all he has promised, what are you going to say? Sounds like the answer might be 'nahhhh.' And you already know that. On the other hand if he sees you waving at him, if he sees you taking care of the other people he has invited - then when he comes out and asks you if you really want to come in, sounds like the answer is 'yessss!!!' And you will already know that too. So the judgement thing really has to do with how we live now, how we are already answering God's invitation in our hearts, how we are taking care of all his other friends - how we are loving, just as God loves us.

Later, after the meeting, I came across something on Twitter. It was a statement made by Bishop Brendan Leahy on Jan 10 2013, on the occasion of his ordination as Bishop in Ireland. The full text included the following paragraph:

The day a new bishop is announced in a diocese is an opportunity for the person concerned but perhaps also for the whole diocese to “begin again” in faith, hope and love. A few days ago, I attended the funeral of the father of a friend of mine. As we walked through the graveyard, we were noticing the headstones with people’s dates of death. Suddenly, I came across one that had “Brendan Leahy” written on it in bold letters and the deceased had died at 52 years of age – my own age! I did check I was still alive! But I also felt it was as if God wanted to remind me – we only have one life. It’s important to live it well.

Well said. I guess that is part of the answer to that kid`s question. It is not about doing the right thing all the time, we drive ourselves crazy with that. It implies that perfection is the minimum, and it is not. But we do need to remember that we will one day have a headstone. Awareness of that reality brings us back to the relationship we have with our God who loves us so desperately.  `Living well` involves having at all times a mindset of `yes` as our answer to the invitation to `come home` to God. Remembering that `yes`especially when we do not do well on a given day, and making things right. It starts with our desire. With it before our minds guiding all we do, we surely will have an idea where we are going in the next life. It is not a roll of the dice. Great question!

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