by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Holy Week, culminating with the celebration of Easter, provides an opportunity each year to rediscover and deepen our Catholic identity. During the Easter liturgy, we will renew our baptismal promises. In so doing, we will reclaim our true identity as beloved daughters and sons of God.
Recently, I read excerpts from the book, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” The book is co-authored by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. They identify three prevalent cultural assumptions that are making our young people more fragile and less resilient.
The first assumption is: What does not kill you makes you weaker. This first assumption goes against my personal experience that grappling with adversity and challenges actually makes you stronger. In fact, it is struggling with overcoming life’s difficulty that is essential in fostering virtue.
The second is: Always trust your feelings. While emotions have value, and it is important to be aware of them, it is dangerous to make decisions solely on the impulse of our feelings. Emotions are significant, but they should not be the exclusive determinant of our actions. We have been gifted with a mind that can help us identify the cause of our emotions and evaluate their relative importance. In choosing a course of action, we must also consider our duties and responsibilities. Emotions should play an important role in our decision-making, but they should not dominate our choices.
The third is: Life is a battle between good people and bad people. This particular assumption is contrary to the Christian worldview. We view every human being as made in the image of God and of such worth that Jesus gave his life on Calvary for each of us. We also believe that we have all been impacted by original sin. Pope Francis, during an interview early in his papacy, was asked to describe himself. The Holy Father stated that he was a sinner touched by the grace of God’s mercy. This third assumption helps to account for the polarization in our culture and the inability for civil conversations with those who have different ideas or beliefs.
There is legitimate concern about alarmingly high levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation among young people. If our youth have been indoctrinated with the aforementioned cultural assumptions, then the struggles our young people are experiencing should not be surprising.
On the other hand, if the core of our identity is that I am a beloved daughter or son of God and we accept the foundation of Christianity that the Creator of the Cosmos seeks friendship with us so much so that the Second Person of the Triune God immersed himself in our humanity, taking upon himself our human flesh in order that we might share in his divine life, how can we doubt our dignity and worth?
Holy Week reminds us that Jesus came to rescue us from our enslavement by sin and the alienation it creates not only between us and God but with one another. Jesus revealed that God does not love us because we are perfect, but Our Lord loves us even in our weakness and sinfulness. These days remind us that we can trust in divine mercy.
Good Friday also sobers us by confronting us with the tragic consequences of our sin, while at the same time consoling us with Our Lord’s prayer for mercy and forgiveness for those responsible for his crucifixion. Jesus did not eliminate human suffering, but he promised his disciples that we will never be alone. Jesus revealed, if we unite our suffering with his, then it can become a powerful instrument of grace for ourselves and others. Jesus gives us the blessed assurance that he can bring forth good from evil and life from death.
Our Lord’s resurrection makes clear that death does not have the final word. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Thus, the Christian is never without hope and never without cause for joy.
The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is the prism through which we understand the meaning, purpose and destiny of our own lives. If we want to relieve our young people from loneliness, anxiety, depression and hopelessness, then we must lead them to Jesus, the bread of life. We must be witnesses to them of the hope, the peace and the joy that comes from friendship with the Lord of Life.
Leave a Comment