As we grow older, it seems we often pine away for the days of our youth. I remember a plaque that hung on the wall at our Franciscan House of Studies — our college house — in Chicago. The sign was a sober reminder: “Youth is wasted on the young.” I suppose it was meant to encourage us to use time wisely because one day we will miss it. Many of us may understand the message more deeply in later years than we may have during our 20s.
I find that when I celebrate the sacrament of confirmation I am confronted with many different images from past days in my life. A big part of me feels sad that many of the teens with whom I am celebrating will never have those experiences – good or bad – that I remember and think about with fondness. One of the sonnets of William Wordsworth comes to mind: “The world is too much with us.” There are so many “worldly” things that crowd out more simple – and possibly less technological – events in our lives.
Spiritual energy gained in our youth may provide some of the best comfort for us as we grow older. Patience and mercy are part of life best learned in youth and generously practiced as we move on through life.”
In his homily to the youth gathered in Rome for the Jubilee Day for Young People on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Pope Francis reminded those assembled of the enormous responsibility that is given to His disciples by Jesus that they “love one another.” “Love,” the pope instructed, “is the Christian’s identity card, the only valid ‘document’ identifying us as Christians.” The pope reminded the young people that love leads to the path of happiness, but “it is not an easy path. It is demanding and it requires effort.”
The life of being a Christian – of loving as He loves, and living the freedom He offers – is certainly demanding. It requires our consent and our thought. The world as we know it does not always allow us such luxuries as thinking and choosing. There is always such a rush about life that we rarely seem to have the time to savor God’s gifts in creation, or even in our relationships with family and friends.
The sacrament of confirmation is such a great gift for us to take time and consider God’s gifts. Certainly the obvious reflection comes to us through the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord. Surely we were taught about these gifts when preparing for confirmation, but are rarely taught how to apply them to “real life.” So much of our faith, learned at an early age, needs to be refined and carefully considered so that it will bear fruit as we mature.
This Jubilee Year of Mercy is a means of helping us remember the nearness of Jesus and His intimate care and concern. Delving deeply into the love that Jesus offers brings us to a different level of care for others and ourselves. Christian love helps us to hold respect not only for the dignity and integrity of others, but also for ourselves. It does take time to learn such things, and perhaps by the time we do learn them we have moved on in years. Maturity can open new doors of understanding and patience – gifts it might be nice to have while we are young – but is not limited by age. Remaining young at heart can be accomplished best by relying on the Gospel and the sacramental life of grace that we receive in those early sacraments. Spiritual energy gained in our youth may provide some of the best comfort for us as we grow older. Patience and mercy are part of life best learned in youth and generously practiced as we move on through life. Keep your eyes focused on His mercy and make your identity known by your love.