What Can We Do for God's Youth Today?
By Bishop John Abdalah
Metropolitan Philip has designated October Youth Month in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Each October we highlight the contributions, activities, and needs of our youth. This year I would like to highlight their needs.
Our youth need Jesus Christ. The need: a real relationship with Christ that will sustain them when their faith is challenged by peers, academics, change, loss and fear. Our youth need pious and holy adults willing to share honestly. Our youth need mentors who will share boldly and unashamedly the Orthodox faith delivered to us from the Apostles and preserved in the Church without alteration or adulteration. Orthodox adults, our youth need you.
Our youth need liturgy. Liturgy is the cooperative work of God and His people. It is here that we join the angelic world at God’s throne to praise Him and interact with His Word, and to be fed in the Eucharist. Liturgy by its very nature can only happen as we gather as the Church. This Church prayer does not happen at the hockey rink or golf course. It doesn’t happen watching sit-coms on television or mowing the lawn. It only happens when we gather as the Church to be the Church. It only happens around the Eucharist and around the bishop or his designee. It is essential to knowing God in the biblical sense of sharing God’s Oneness and living in Him. We who are made one with God in baptism are nurtured by God through His Church in Sunday and festal worship.
Our youth need to be taught to talk to God everywhere and all the time. Just as we teach our youth to communicate with us and each other, in ways appropriate to the relationship and communication, we need to teach our children how to talk to God. This prayer should happen at meals, and regular times and places in the home, and also in personal places and times. Just as the relationships we have with one another grow when we practice, so too does our relationship with God grow as we talk to Him. This cannot be taken for granted; rather we need to be deliberate about modeling and teaching family and personal prayer.
Our youth need to learn to listen. Each subsequent generation of modern times seems to have less and less ability to tolerate silence. Earphones are as prevalent as earrings. We need to model quiet time with God for God to speak, as well as regular reading of the Scriptures. Relationships require two-way communication.
Our youth need balanced and healthy role models from the parish to guide, love and support them. God is Person and personal, and we need persons and relationships to help our youth encounter God in their lives. We cannot rely on the schools and politicians to communicate God to our youth. Youth need real life examples of balanced and healthy Christian lives.
I thank Metropolitan Philip for highlighting this month for us, and for his life-long commitment to our youth. He has shown his interest in their spiritual, physical and psychological health. He has developed camps, Christian education programs and even encouraged parochial schools and scholarships for advanced learning. He has modeled deliberate and thoughtful leadership for our youth. Please join him in leading our youth to know God by getting them to Church, teaching them to pray and developing their personal and corporate relationships with God.