By: Deacon Marques Silva
I have worked with youth and young adults for over 20 years and I have noticed a consistent pattern of starvation over and over again. Yes, sometimes the starvation has been the lack of food which needed to be provided while we were sharing the Gospel. But, this economic and societal tragedy that we are responsible for reducing is not the most common starvation I have encountered among the individuals I have had the privilege of serving. What did they all share in common? They were starving for love.
I know it sounds cliché but it is nonetheless true. My experience since I have been ordained is that the majority of tweens and teens are starving to know that they are loved and created with a purpose. They continue to communicate that they have a desire to be loved for who they are and not for their accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the majority of parents and families love their kids and express it by going to extraordinary lengths to ensure their son/daughter’s success. But that is not what they want or at least not what the kids are experiencing. Society does not help either.
In school, they are being told that they are a random assortment of cells. This is not an issue of evolutionism vs. creationism but an issue of meaning and purpose.
Then society tells them that happiness is getting what you want when you want it. Did you notice that Busch Gardens commercial for the last few years says that our inalienable rights are “Life, Liberty, and Happiness?” Dear Busch Gardens, thanks for setting an impossible standard. Oh, I checked the Declaration of Independence and it still says the “pursuit of happiness.”
Or if you are a lady, Victoria’s Secret has a new advertisement describing what the “perfect body” is supposed to look like. Sadly, their example is not realistic, nor representative of authentic beauty. It saddens me that my daughters encounter their advertisements.
Then there are our young men who are told through the media that they only know how to act like dogs and are incapable of purity, self-control and responsibility. My sons and I beg to differ. We are not perfect but still, this message is a lie.
Here is what I have found that our youth and young adults want and need to hear in order for them to grow in proper loving, healthy relationships as well as their relationship with Christ:
- “I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Ps. 139:14) – Regardless of your theory of creation, each one of us is an unrepeatable gift of God the Father. We are created through love, by love, and for love. We are created for a purpose, a mission that only we can accomplish. Brother and sister, strive to be the woman or man of God you were created to be.
- “But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?” (Rm 9:20) – Ladies, there is nothing wrong with your body type, weight, and shape – the culture is crazy. Our Lord intended for the world to encounter you through the specific body He gave you. Your comparing says that He had no idea what He was doing (this goes for you too guys).
- “[T]he joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) – Happiness is not getting what you want but is defined as “any contentment in the possession of a good.” It implies a constancy and state of well-being. More importantly it is a pursuit of the greatest good, God, who will give us this divine gift if we would but co-operate. That thirsting for more in every activity we participate in is a thirsting for the Love Himself.
- “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:9) – Gentlemen, love is received and expressed through a mutual giving of self in accordance with your vocation and state in life. Meaning, you are very capable of purity and responsibility which is expressed through self-sacrifice and service – this is how you experience the love you are looking for.
Our youth and young adults are starving for love and purpose. They need to hear it and be accepted for who they are and not what they are able to accomplish or how they look. Bishop Loverde’s motto, I think, is the perfect motto for parents, “Encourage and teach.” There are so many competing voices for the hearts of our youth and young adults. Encouragement and teaching does not mean that we soften the truth because it might hurt. St. Paul says it this way,
“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:14-15a) [Emphasis mine]
This starvation of love will be satiated by Christ Himself. Of course, we have a very human and tangible need for love from our family and friends. We need to appropriately express it so we are able to perceive the love that Christ has in store for us in glory. It may be only a glimpse but it will propel us toward Him.
Additionally, we need to answer the culture by an authentic witness that encourages, teaches and preaches “Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). This hunger for being loved is really a hunger for Love Himself.
My hope for young people is that of all messages they hear this is the one sticks with them the most:
The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. — Pope Benedict XVI