Readings: Malachi 3:19-20a; Psalm 98, Response: The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Gospel: Luke 21: 5-19
We now come to the final two Sundays of the liturgical year. Our readings, particularly the Gospel, will picture the end times, and culminate in the Feast of Christ the King, the triumph of Christ’s sacrifice that brings us God’s forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love.
In today’s Gospel, Christ warns his disciples about upheavals in society in vivid detail. He ends with his assurance that “not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21: 18-19)
Perseverance in the midst of trials is a timely reminder to us. The concern for mental health confirms that the situation is a crisis in the Philippines and in many parts of the world. The crisis cuts across social classes and ages.
How do we help people who are overwhelmed, depressed and are pushed to despair? We cannot tell them, “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” This would be the most insensitive thing to do.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Prevention starts from the beginning, from the moment we form a relationship with a person.
In the case of Christ and his friends, the ground of friendship was mission, Christ’s call to them to follow him. There are three key points in this relationship.
One, there was a clear vision from the start—to follow him on mission. To Peter he says, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5: 14)
Two, he told them the cost of discipleship: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23)
Third, he assures them of his presence and support. There are many beautiful passages to cite, but let me use two:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (John 15: 9-10)
“And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20)
These are part of the process of prevention: the clarity of purpose and vision; what it takes to get to this vision; and the assurance that we are in this together.
When I started working in high school as a Jesuit priest almost 25 years ago this January, one of the first books I encouraged teachers and parents to read was “Greater Expectations: Overcoming a Culture of Indulgence in our Homes and Schools,” by psychologist William Damon.
I am a firm believer that young people, all people, are in search of something or someone that they can dedicate themselves to. There is an inherent longing for purpose and mission in all of us.
Our relationships must lead us to discover this. These are relationships of love, and that love us into excellence.
Loving them into excellence
This is what I tell parents, teachers and all who mentor or form people: Love them into excellence.
This begins by helping them discover their mission. Help them dream, and awaken the desire to pursue their dream.
Teach them to try, learn the discipline of hard work and fortitude.
In his beautiful speech to teachers in Jesuit high schools in the United States, Joseph Califano Jr., former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and founder and chair of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, made this appeal:
“My plea to you as Jesuit high school education enters the 21st century is this: Teach your students to try. And encourage them all to experience the exhilaration and exhaustion of spending themselves in a worthy cause. If you do that, then whatever their careers, they will be happier and the world will be a better place for what you’ve taught them.”
I remember what I told the very first student I mentored almost 40 years ago when he was starting his rise in the corporate ladder.
I told him that when you reach a certain level of excellence, you do not even ask if the person sitting next to you is good. Assume she is better.
But the secret of being always at the top of your game is to do your homework and always try to be your best.
He has really done well. But even more important is, he has not lost sight of his dream as a young man to serve our people and our country. The young man with a dream has not disappeared.
I saw him through his ups and downs, his triumphs and disappointments and in all this, he just stood up and tried again.
We hardly see each other now, but always, during Christmas and birthdays, we always greet each other. In the simple remembering is the assurance that we are always there for each other.
This is the prevention process that enables us to say, “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”
Please think about this. Pray over it. Live it out in your families and communities. Be a community where you will love each other into excellence.
The best we can give our youth, the best prevention, the best of our love, is to “help the youth discover Christ in their life.”
For sure, their lives and our world will be better.