Do you remember when wallets had the giant fold out sleeve for pictures? Do they still make them like that? They don’t seem to be as popular as they once were. You remember... your friend or relative would say, “Lemme show you pictures of my kids.” And with a flick of the wrist, a trail of pictures, linked together by conjoined transparent pockets would fall all the way to the ground.
So, if you’ll permit me for a moment, I’d like to brag a bit about my kids; about your kids. Wednesday night, around 6:30, I’m putting some things away in the back sacristy here and I come out to find 10 of our teens walking into the Church, rosaries in hand, gathering in the Immaculate Heart of Mary alcove.
It’s summer vacation. A beautiful sunny afternoon, and here are a bunch of teenagers praying to Jesus with one another and their mother.
Why? Is it because they’re holy kids? They are. We all are. As sons and daughters of God, we are inherently holy.
Is it because they want to grow in holiness? Yes, I think very much, they want to grow in holiness.
Is it because they want to feel good? Perhaps. I’m sure their prayer with one another, with Mary, with Jesus, and with God brought them joy.
Is it because they feel bad? Perhaps. Perhaps they are experiencing some trial or suffering and I’m sure their prayer brought them some consolation.
There’s another reason why I think these teens came to pray on a sunny, summer afternoon. They’re hungry. They’re hungry for that which truly satisfies. They’re hungry for what Jesus calls in today’s Gospel, “food that endures for eternal life.” They’re hungry for the Bread God the Father sends down from Heaven: His own Son Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. And they came, have come and will continue to come to the Church to be fed.
Occasionally, I’ll spontaneously decide to go spend a little time in Eucharistic Adoration. It’s one of the best perks of being a priest. You want to have Adoration, you can do it whenever you want. Just get out the monstrance, insert Blessed Sacrament and away we go! Well, quite often when I do, I’ll send a tweet out that says something like “Eucharistic Adoration in the Blessed Sacrament chapel today from 3-4. Go!”
And you know what happens? Each and every time, a handful of our teens will show up to worship the Lord. (As well as other parishoners.) By the way, if you want to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @fatherbudzinski.
More and more it seems, the young people of our parish and many others, young and old, are seeking a deeper, increasingly authentic intimacy with the Lord. Years ago, Eucharistic Adoration was sometimes looked upon with suspicion. Now, it’s one of our teens favorite ways to pray with the Lord. People are making courageous returns to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after decades of being away. Just a few months ago, over 1,500 men gathered at the Coliseum for the Rekindle the Fire men’s conference and women gathered likewise for the Arise conference. Couples are stepping forward wanting to embrace Natural Family Planning. Couples who had been married outside the Church are inquiring about having their marriage blessed so they can receive the Eucharist again. Men and women from our parish are going on Christ Renews His Parish weekend retreats and talking about how it has changed their lives. Record numbers of teens are going on our Life Teen and Edge retreats. We already have a big number of people interested in beginning RCIA and becoming Catholic this Easter. And the list goes on and on.
Why? What’s so special about taking part in Church stuff? Isn’t that just for Jesus Freaks? No. It’s for everyone who is hungry; hungry for food that endures for eternal life.
The food that perishes are those things, temporary entertainments and distractions that do not, that cannot, satisfy our natural hunger for God that each of us possesses which can only be satisfied by God.
Food that perishes comes in the form of money, material goods, clothing, power, achievement, status. Not that money, material goods, and status are evil. They’re not. It’s OK to have those things. But they cannot be the “bread” on which we live. They cannot be our Bread of Life.
Jesus tells us today that he is the Bread of Life. And every single person in the world is hungry for this Bread whether they know it or not.
That’s why 10 teens walked into the Church on a sunny, summer afternoon to pray a rosary. Not that teens are the holiest ones in the church. But they are are good example to observe because perhaps more than any other demographic, teenagers are sold a buffet of food that perishes on a continual basis. Having the latest technology. Having the best clothing. Having the “right” friends. They’ve tasted the food that perishes for eternal life. And you know what, more and more of them are becoming bored with it. Thank God! They are coming to realize that nothing can satisfy their infinite souls except the infinite food God offers them.
If you are beginning to, or have found, the things of this world to be a bore... If you’re experiencing a lack of direction in your life... If it seems as though real joy is missing... Or, if you simply dissatisfied with a one hour per week relationship with Jesus Christ... Maybe you’re becoming more and more aware of the God-sized hole in your soul and the inability of any thing or any person in this world to fill it.
That realization is a cause for great joy. For you are discovering that something is missing in your life. And you are discovering the only one who can provide what is missing: Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, food that does not perish, but endures for eternal life.