With the new school year beginning, in recent weeks I have had the blessing to celebrate Mass at some of our Catholic high schools.
High school is such a great time in life. It is a time when young people start really thinking about how they are going to live. What am I going to do for a job? Who will I marry? Will I find the right person? Where am I going to live? This is the time when some begin to wonder if God is calling them to be a priest or to be consecrated in religious life.
Sometimes I think we get stuck because we ask the wrong questions. We ask: What do I want out of my life? But we need to remember that life is not about us. The better question is always: What does God want out of my life? Why did he make me?
And the answer that I talk to young people about is that we are all born to be saints. We are all born to find Jesus and to follow him. And when we follow him, we discover the meaning of our lives.
Of course, this takes some convincing — with young people as well as with adults. Many of us still have the wrong ideas about holiness and what it means to be a saint.
But the truth is that saints are not “extraordinary” people — they are not like “extraterrestrials” who come down to earth. Too many people think like that — and it gets in the way of helping them to see what God wants with our lives.
Saints are regular people like you and me. What makes the difference is that saints really believe that they are children of God. They really believe that God made them for a reason, for a relationship.
God did not just create us — and then leave us alone. That is not who God is. That is not how he works. God is our Father. He wants to help us grow. He loves every one of us like his own daughters, like his own son.
That is why God sent Jesus into the world. He is meant to be our older brother. God sent him to show us the way. That is why it is so important for us to have a relationship — a personal relationship — with Jesus. Because only when we know Jesus can we find true happiness, true love.
It seems to me that one of the challenges we have today is to really help people believe that we can have a relationship with God.
So, in my conversations with young people, I have been challenging them to spend this school year really trying to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
For me, growing in that relationship means a kind of two-step daily program.
First, we need to spend just a few minutes a day praying. We need to turn off our phones and just try to be alone and be quiet with God. Just talk to Jesus in your heart. Ask him questions, tell him what you are thinking, what is going on in your life.
We do not need to do this for a long time. Just a few minutes is all we need. What is important is to just get into this habit of talking to Jesus.
For the second step, I tell our young people they can use their phones! I prefer to read the Gospels in a book, but I suggest that they may want to download a Bible app.
The important thing is to make time every day to try to read a passage from the Gospels. Reflect a little on the words of Jesus — and on his example. Think about what he is saying, what he is doing. Think about how he responds to different people and situations.
I have been telling young people that I have been following a simple program like this since I was their age. And I promise: It works! These habits start to change your life. The more we pray, the more we reflect on the Gospels, the more we begin to see that Jesus is with us, that he is working in our lives and in the world.
And as we keep going in following Jesus, we start to think and act more like Jesus, more like a “saint.” It is a beautiful thing. You realize you are joyful, you are happy.
Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you. And let us pray for our young people.
May our Blessed Mother Mary help them — and all of us — to grow in our relationship with Jesus so that we can become saints and make being saints the way for our lives.