Mission for and with the Youth
A Letter to the Youth
Dear Young People,
Joyful greetings to you in the name of all our Brother Bishops in the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Youth!
The COVID19 pandemic caught all of us unprepared. We have witnessed unprecedented changes in almost all areas of our life. We had to face the reality of closed churches, having online masses. Many of you, young people, along with our seniors, had to stay at home. Your voices, laughter and noise are missed in our churches, parishes and campuses.
The aspirations we have expressed in the 2019 Year of the Youth seemed to have stalled. Perhaps for some of you, the crisis marked the death of your dreams.
Hopefully not! For Christus vivit! Christ is alive! Pope Francis, in his letter, sharing the fruits of the Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment, reminds us of three great truths: “God loves us. Jesus saves us. He is alive.”
The past weeks and months of the pandemic have not been easy for all of us. New words added to our day-to-day vocabulary are proof of the adjustments we made. We now speak of “new normal”, WFH, lockdowns, social distancing, ECQ and MGCQ. Face masks and face shields have become part of our daily outfit. Besides shopping and banking, classes and other transactions have been moved online. Meetings and seminars are now held in digital conference rooms.
We are still adjusting, trying to figure out many things. The unexpected changes, restrictions and the uncertainty may have led you to boredom and sadness. Others, realizing the economic effects, might have fallen into self-pity and a sense of uselessness. As poverty worsens, there are those who succumb to despair and hopelessness, even tempted to end their lives. The new normal may also disturb our emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.
The difficulties, anxieties and fears brought by the pandemic can paralyze us. They can take away the idealism, excitement and joy of youth from us.
In the face of this situation, allow us to remind you, echoing the message of Pope Francis, of three lessons.
First: Death is not the end.
Remember, death is not the end. Suffering is not our ultimate destiny. Pope Francis says: “If you have lost your vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection he urges you: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’” (Pope’s Message for WYD2020).
Jesus declares: “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” [Jn 10:10]. Our loss, failure, defeat and death are occasions to rise anew. For St. Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” [Phil 1:21]
Second: We can rise from death to life.
“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” [Rom 6:8]. Jesus is our life! We can rise from death to life by rediscovering our need for silence and prayer. Mary was at prayer when she was visited by the angel. God spoke to Mary through the Angel Gabriel. And her response to the invitation was a prayer, her Fiat and Magnificat: “I am the servant of the Lord… My soul magnifies the Lord!” After such experience, the Scriptures report: “And Mary arose and went in haste” [Lk 1:39]. The young Blessed Carlo Acutis loved moments of prayer. He would daily pass by the Church to offer flowers and prayers.
The curfew has shortened our days, allowing us to have more time for ourselves. We urge you, our dear young people, to find time for silence and prayer. Find time to listen and reflect on God’s Word.
In silence and prayer, you will recover your inner-directedness and peace. By nurturing interior silence, you shall hear God’s voice in your conscience. Your conscience is your moral and spiritual compass, which helps you navigate through the many dilemmas, confusing situations and difficult choices you encounter.
Resist falling into the cycle of blame, hate and despair. With Jesus, you can rise from your failures and defeat; you can recover from your sense of loss. Jesus saves you. Arise!
Third: We are being sent to be witnesses of new life in Christ.
Christ is alive! Look around, there are signs of hope. Many young people, in this difficult time, take responsibility. There are those who do their best to help their families. There are young people who seek ways to encourage and minister to fellow youth. There are young learners doing their best to cope with online learning.
Young people, face the new normal with openness and the readiness of a servant. We are servants of the Lord. Discover new paths, avenues, ways of serving others. The social media, the digital space, even the current crisis are opportunities for new ways and means of bringing the good news to others. This is the call for new evangelization.
Like St. Paul, who was told: “Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen” [cf. Acts 26:16], you are being sent as witnesses of the new life in Christ. The Saints, the Holy Ones, are witnesses to the new life in Christ; let us look to them for inspiration and help. Together with our fellow youth ministers–our brother priests, women and men religious, lay adults in youth ministry and other ecclesial ministries–we stand with you in this mission.
2021: 500th Year of Christianity in the Philippines
Young people, we invite you to deepen these three lessons by participating in the Formation Program for the National Youth Day (NYD) 2020. The program is likewise intended to prepare us for the year 2021, the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines.
May you realize that 500 years ago, we received the gift of Faith. Our Christian Faith is such a treasure that, even with money, food and material resources now getting scarce, in the face of our inability to stop the virus and natural calamities, it is Faith that gives us the courage, strength and hope in most difficult times and in times of great suffering. Faith is the conviction that “Christ is alive.”
As we welcome the year 2021, the 500th year of Christianity in our land, we say: Filipino youth, arise! Let us rise up to the challenges of COVID19 and other present-day realities. Let us build God’s Kingdom. Let us contribute to uplifting the lives of others and the transformation of our communities. And let us begin by transforming our own lives.
Young people, arise from sleep, laziness, boredom and indifference. Be creative! Arise from anxiety, fear and failure! Get involved! There is something you can do. Arise from despair and helplessness. Problems, difficulties and crises are opportunities. Arise! Strengthened by the Lord’s grace, take a bold step! Bring to fulfillment your good intentions and important resolutions!
Arise! The Lord has touched you. He gives you new life: new direction, strength and vigor. And, revived by the Lord’s compassion and touch, let us make haste to our needy brothers and sisters, like Mary, our Mother.
Before we conclude, we would like to say a word of gratitude and encouragement to youth ministers–clergy, religious and lay–who are our kalakbays in youth ministry. Thank you for your love for Jesus and His young people! With them, let us continue journeying together as Church towards fullness of life.
In the name of our Brother Bishops in the CBCP, we thank you, our dear young people, for striving to live in the Faith and for keeping the Faith alive.
We invoke God’s blessing for you and those dear to you, as we assure you of our continued prayers and support.
Arise! Christ is alive!
CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Youth
Most Rev. REX ANDREW C. ALARCON, DD
Bishop of Daet
Most Rev. BARTOLOME G. SANTOS Jr., DD
Bishop of Iba
Most Rev. ANTONIETO D. CABAJOG, DD
Bishop of Surigao
Most Rev. MARVYN A. MACEDA, DD
Bishop of San Jose de Antique
Most Rev. LOUIE P. GALBINES, DD
Bishop of Kabankalan
Most Rev. PATRICK DANIEL Y. PARCON, DD
Bishop of Talibon
Most Rev. ENRIQUE V. MACARAEG, DD
Bishop of Tarlac
Rev. Fr. CONEGUNDO B. GARGANTA
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