One of my good friends recently invited me over to his home for lunch after Mass. Ordinarily, it would not have been such an unusual get-together but for the fact that he and his wife recently had a newborn child. I was very excited to catch up with them and grateful for their hospitality — which they generously gave to me, despite, as you can imagine, it being a very hectic and busy time in their lives.
I was delighted to see the little one: Here was this precious new soul, so tiny, so frail, and yet also so full of hope and expectation for the future! I was scared that I would hurt him, but his parents graciously allowed me to try my hand at holding the baby and rocking him to sleep.
As I was sitting there with their family, all of us at the table laughing, joking, and sharing about our days, my mind somehow roamed to Psalm 128:
Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
and who walk in his ways.
What your hands provide you will enjoy;
you will be blessed and prosper:
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your home,
Your children like young olive plants
around your table.
Just so will the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion;
may you see Jerusalem’s prosperity
all the days of your life,
and live to see your children’s children.
Peace upon Israel!
You see, I realized then and there that my friends were rich, they were rich in what mattered: in life, in faith, in hope, in love. In living out faithfully their vows through the Sacrament of Marriage, I could really see through them how God can live within two people and open their hearts to do something greater than what they could have done on their own.
There is nothing saccharine or sentimental in this, for I also knew their stories. They have shared with me some of their worries, their daily doubts, and the anxieties of parenthood. They did not hide from me their struggles or pretend that they had it all together. I also knew from prior observation that babies weren’t always so tranquil and quiet either!
And yet, despite this, I knew that they wouldn’t have chosen it any other way. What a gift, what a treasure it is to know of the vocation that the Lord has called you to and to live it out joyfully and courageously! Whether that be the single, religious, priestly, or married life, we can all generously say “Yes!” to the Lord and He will even do greater things than we can imagine: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him. . . .” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
As our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used to remind us:
I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.
There’s nothing like welcoming a new child into this world or a seeing a young family trying to “make it work” that flies so much in the face of our modern culture, which increasingly discourages having children or mocks those who choose to get married young.
This mentality is especially prevalent among our generation, the millennials, who are hesitant to get married or commit to relationships because of our own parents’ divorces, the lack of job opportunities, or . I do not want to minimize any of these challenges and, as with any discernment, we do have to consider our circumstances in life prayerfully before moving forward.
But it seems to me that we cannot let the fears control us forever. At some point, we just have to “put out into the deep” and lower our nets (Luke 5:4). If we do not take risks, if we try to play it safe, if we only seek comfort, then how are we ever to become the heroic saints God has made us to be? How could we ever witness the Gospel to the world in that way? We simply can’t.
That is why the Church puts so much hope and trust in young people. We aren’t simply here to fill seats in the pews, but we can help sanctify our world now through our idealism, our energy, and our zeal — and by God”s grace. As a recent Mass reading encouraged us, “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
When he spoke to World Youth Day volunteers, Pope Francis said this of marriage:
Yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you.
He reiterated similar themes this past Sunday while speaking in Sardinia:
[T]he young are the apostles of youth! Tell everyone with your life, with your joy, that Jesus and his message is always current. … Encounter Jesus Christ, experience His love and His mercy, it is the greatest adventure and most beautiful thing that can happen to a person.
Did you notice that? Pope Francis says that young people are like modern-day apostles. G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” If we, like the first Apostles, bravely go out against the stream of our societies, we too can be a leaven to our generation, bringing our friends hope, and sharing with others the saving truths of the Gospel that has and is changing our own lives.
In the midst of this confused world, when we seem to have forgotten the beauty and meaning of family life, of the high call of fatherhood and motherhood, of the pure joy and unadulterated goodness of holding a little child, the witness of my friends’ marriage means something. Likewise, I have also met many faithful priests, wonderful deacons, and religious sisters and brothers serving with the same spirit and fire that gives life to this world in another beautiful way.
Do not doubt that if you are living out your vocation and faithfully seeking the Lord’s will, even with our weaknesses and faults sometimes all too readily apparent, that others won’t see that and desire the same. Even if many do not, remember that the Lord will see you — and that’s what truly matters in the end. It might seem like you are throwing your life away, but that is not how God measures success: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
If we encounter Jesus and walk alongside Him, He will not fail us. We may have to be patient. We may have to bear heavy crosses. We may not know the way ahead of us. But you and I have an irreplaceable opportunity and unrepeatable chance to go on this “great adventure” together with Him and pursue the “most beautiful thing.”