I have heard countless times in the past ten years how important it is to be present to teens. I have always understood and agreed that presence is essential in developing relationships centered on Christ. After all, Jesus was present to everyone he encountered, and this is the model that we should follow.
Because it is important, I continue to try to be present to teens by putting paperwork aside when they drop by the office, by looking them in the eye to let them know I am listening or by taking some time to pray with them. Yet through all of these meetings and conversations, I never anticipated being in awe of how great our God is. That might sound a little strange. Let me explain.
In the past five months, I have been able to witness the greatness of God in an 18 year old young man. He has the biggest heart and shares God’s love with everyone he meets. He serves with humility and never expects anything in return. His peers as well as the younger teens look up to him because he has turned his life around and surrendered it all to the Lord. I can honestly say that he lives for Christ in everything he does.
This past summer, teens and adults from my parish traveled to Steubenville Atlanta and Camp Covecrest. During our week at Covecrest, I had the chance to sit down and talk with this young man. I took the time to be present to him. He shared with me that his life completely turned around the summer before his senior year when he attended a camp with Young Life. Through this camp experience, he realized that he wasn’t living the life God was calling him to. His eyes were opened to the love of Christ, and he made a commitment to live his life for God.
Then he said one of the most profound things. He told me, “Young Life is great, but they don’t have the Sacraments. Our Catholic faith does.” His week at Covecrest reminded him how important the sacraments of our faith are … especially the Eucharist. This is what he had been missing in his life since middle school.
It was at this moment that I realized that God was speaking to me through this young man. He was calling me to receive Him in the Eucharist every single day, not just two or three times a week. I had been so busy in ministry that I hadn’t heard God say He wanted more of me.
So next time you find yourself talking to a teen, take time to recognize God’s presence in them. He can speak to you through them. Thank you, Jimmy, for helping me to hear God’s voice and open my eyes to all of God’s wonder.