Dear Young People,
I wish to express my vote of confidence in you and in your ability to do well in life and to carve something good out of our world despite economic and political woes, challenges in the education sector and moral deficiency in high and low places all around. I commend your determination, resilience and creativity and I refuse to join those who think that young people are the problems of our society or world. On the contrary I believe that, given the right motivation, you remain the greatest asset of any society.
God Worked the Christmas Miracle Through A Child
My confidence in your ability derives from God’s confidence in you, having given you life, good health energy and intelligence. Know that God has put you in this world out of love and has a purpose and a plan for you. Keep saying that to yourself. If you ever think you are too small, think about Jesus at Christmas. God sent him as a child to save the world which was at that time, probably more wicked and dangerous than ours now. Remember that he was almost killed right at his infancy by a very powerful king Herod (Matthew 2), but he prevailed. As a youth Jesus defined his purpose and plan: “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted ….” (Lk 4:18). You see, Jesus it is never too early for you in life and follow it through. Learn from that and do the same. Whether poverty, hardship, lack of opportunity or resources, do not let your challenges define you. Believe that you can prevail. Rather, define your plans clearly in the face of those challenges and follow up with a firm, prayerful resolve.
Believe in Yourself
Recall that Jesus once said that those who believe in him will perform even greater works than himself (Jn 14:12). That may sound incredible but Jesus cannot lie. Achieving this however requires that you develop confidence in yourself and your ability. Believe in the gifts that God has given to you not only to achieve personal greatness but also to transform your family, society, and country. This does not rule out the fact that you will sometimes have questions worries and challenges. Everybody has them. What matters more however is what you do with those challenges and worries, face them or let them face you down.
Take It All to God in Prayer
Look at the Virgin Mary! According to the Little Catholic Catechism, she must have been about 14 years old when the angel visited her. She was just a youth, and not even yet an adult. Yet God gave her the most important assignment of her generation, to be the mother of the Saviour. Can this God who believes so much in young people not use you in an extraordinary way also? Of course, he can. Just ask yourself, how did Mary manage? How did she acquire the confidence and power to succeed? First, she asked God through His messenger, the angel. “How can this be since I know no man?” The angel then gave her reassurance that overcame all her self-doubt. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most-High will cover you with its shadow” (Lk.1:35). I think that is a prayer for all young people to make their own as they go through life. The secret is to develop a personal prayer life. According to Ronald Rolheiser in his book, “The Holy Longing”, “Only prayer can provide for you that fine line between depression and inflation… only prayer can ground a soul -and only it can save you from being either a depressive or asinine personality. If you do not pray, you will either be habitually depressed or obsessed with your own ego”. Other youth models to emulate in the Bible are Samuel (1 Sam. 3), called when he was very young and David (I Sam. 17: 17ff) who defeated Goliath and set his people free as a youth, both accomplishing what much older people could not do because of their love for God.
Experience is Still the Best Teacher
After consulting with God, Mary went in haste to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, an older woman with abundant practical and spiritual experience, rather than just seek the counsel of her colleagues or people of her own level. Here was Elizabeth who had had to cope with tough challenges like barenness, rejection, old age etc. It was during her visit to Elizabeth that Mary realized who she had become and expressed full knowledge of her identity. She composed the Magnificat, arguably the most compelling thanksgiving song ever. She said: “…henceforth all ages will call me blessed” (Lk 1:46ff). I hope you can see here, God’s way of teaching you the importance of consulting those with greater experience than you at key life moments and in taking important decisions. Can anyone really love you more than your parents or relatives? Hardly! As the adage goes: “To know the way ahead, ask from those who are coming back.”
Face Challenges with Discipline
Believe that the world needs you and is waiting for you to play your role and a lot would be missing without your personal contribution. However, you will face challenges along the way. Malala Yousefzai of Pakistan, Greta Thurnberg of Sweden, Asisat Oshoala, Victor Osimhen and Davido of Nigeria, Mark Zuckerberg of the USA, and others you know, all have made a big difference in the society, but not without challenges. Learn that leadership or greatness is never freely given. It must be earned for the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. When the going gets tough, then the tough get going. Believe me, there were generations before you that had a much tougher life than you and they still survived through discipline and prayerful hard work. Disengage from the class of young people who today wallow in a “sense of entitlement,” quick to take all available privileges but slow to engage in sacrifice, hard work and discipline. If you wish to soar like an eagle, they say, don’t hang around with turkeys. Your destination is simply different.
Be a Missionary of Sorts
I know that God who used all the young people mentioned above to write history can help you too to transform your generation even if in a different way.
In the Synthesis Report after the first stage of the Synod on synodality assembly which took place in October in Rome, youths were urged to become digital missionaries to others. That requires that you, young people use your powerful social skills and digital platform to promote good things, good relations and the good news. For this to happen, you, young people must gather information and knowledge about your faith from authentic sources. No generation ever had as much access to information as the current generation has through your cell phones and the internet. You must justify having these incredible tools. However, the quality of the sources of information available to your generation covers the good the bad and the ugly. It will take a deliberate decision to access only authentic and wholesome sites and platforms, to get edifying information and knowledge and then disseminate same to others. The latest document from the Dicastery for Communication, entitled: “Towards Full Presence”, readily available on the Internet, is short but is a rich resource which proposes to young people the ideal mode and strategy for presence in the digital media. It is well worth reading.
All summed up young people, believe that you have a right to be here and have a responsibility to mould a positive world for yourselves. Build that faith on personal relationship with God and you will succeed. And yes, I believe you can in the New Year!
Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo: Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Nigeria
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Nigeria.