4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth." (Lk. 4:21).
Today in our first reading from the Old Testament, the Prophet Jeremiah said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you" (Jer. 1:4-5). These words are exciting and potent for personal meditation. Before we were born, God formed us and knew us!
Unfortunately, the Church skips a critical aspect of Jeremiah's testimony when wrestling with his ministerial call. The prophet advocates that he is too young for ministry (Jer. 1:6). God's response to the prophet's avoidance was, "Do not say, 'I am too young" (Jer. 1:7). Inspired, motivated, and affirmed by God, Jeremiah became a mighty prophet in Old Testament literature.
For this reason, I am sharing three affirmation statements for young people today when inspiring them about ministry or church leadership. First, we must affirm their spiritual gifts for success and good fortune. These words from scripture validate that our youths possess spiritual gifts, "To each individual, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit" (1 Cor 12:7). We must counsel our youth to tap into their spiritual gifts to experience success and good fortune. St. Paul inspired his young disciple Timothy with these words, "I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim. 1:6-7). Helping young people stir into flame God's gifts and remove the nay-sayers is our calling.
Next, encourage young people to make choices based on inspiration and not desperation. Sr. Thea once said, "The world battles and fights against [our youths] telling [them] that they are not worth much..." The world's behavior influences our youths to take desperate measures far too often. Joining gangs or participating in drugs are options to cover young people's loneliness. Here affirming their spirit to fight not with guns or hurtful words but with inspiration from within will bless them immensely. Making choices is hard when real love is not their environment. That's why I like how the community loved Jesus in today's gospel, "all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth," as a young adult. When the community speck graciously to our young adults, we will inspire them to be leaders and make choices to love. St. Paul's gracious words to Timothy were "pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith" (1 Tim. 6:11-12). These virtues can help make choices through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, Today is my best day. These words are so important because they are similar to what Jesus said, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Don't miss this point; Jesus knew that after reading His mission statement (Lk. 4:18-19), this was His best day. He discovered His ministry. Jesus' ministry was to heal the sick, make the lame walk, and bring sight to the blind. Jesus knew of the gifts because God knew Him. Our youth need to know that God knows them; God knew them while in their mother's womb. Today is their best day because God created them. They cannot undo yesterday and make tomorrow. But, Today is their best day because God's love is fulfilled in them.
No matter what the age may be, make today the best day for your youths or young adults by affirming them with gracious words from your mouth.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Pro. 18:21).
Authored: Evangelist Michael Howard, MACS
Servant of God, Sr. Thea Bowman's comment found in "Say Not I Am Too Young." A pastoral Reflection Address to the African-American Catholic Youth of the Diocese of Cleveland. 1990.