Let us announce with joy!
Br. Blake Crossley OP
2018 is a special year for the youth of Australia. The Church has dedicated an entire year to you! A Year of Youth! In announcing the Year of Youth, President of the ACBC Archbishop Dennis Hart acknowledged that our youth are a “crucial part” of the Church’s journey forward, but more importantly he said the Year of Youth is a way to help young people “encounter God in Jesus Christ.” After all, is not helping people to encounter God through Jesus the reason the Church is here?
The theme of the Year of Youth is: “Open New Horizons for Spreading Joy: Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Across Australia, each diocese is embracing an array of creative ways to celebrate this theme. The Archdiocese of Melbourne has decided to emphasise the message of spreading joy in this Year of Youth by focusing on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
As a Dominican – the Order charged with promulgating the Rosary throughout the world – I am indeed biased in saying that this is an inspired choice! For the Rosary is not merely a devotion, but a gospel based prayer that explores the mysteries of salvation. The youth of today can smell something that is fake from a mile away. They are searching for authenticity and there is no prayer more authentic than the Rosary.
The Rosary could also be the answer for the many people who worry about the absence of the youth from our Sunday Masses. Legend has it that when St Dominic was facing great resistance as he preached to bring the Cathar heretics back to the Catholic faith, Our Lady appeared to him in the forest of Bouconne in Southern France and said: “Go, preach my Rosary and you will obtain an abundant harvest.” The youth are there, we just need to show them the joy of our Christian faith!
The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
The Annunciation - “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn: 1:14) - is a mystery of great joy to all people, but especially the youth.
First, it demonstrates God’s great love for our youth, for He chose a young woman to become the Mother of God. Mary was most likely a teenager when God enacted His plan for our salvation through her. Some parents have great difficulty trusting their children to do even the most simplest of tasks, like taking out the rubbish. But God entrusted the most important job in human history to a teenager!
Jesus also demonstrated his love for the youth during his own public ministry. When children came to Jesus and his disciples tried to shew them away, he rebuked them saying “let the children come to me” (Mt 19:14). In doing this, Jesus has set an example by embracing and caring for the youth and including them in his ministry.
“Hail full of grace! The Lord is with you!” (Lk 1:28) While there is no doubt that Mary was set apart for a special role by God, the Annunciation does remind us that there is no age limit or social status that make some closer to God than others. Mary was a young, unmarried girl from an inconsequential family, making her among the most powerless people in her society. But God was full of love for Mary.
Grace is the love of God and the Archangel Gabriel’s proclamation that Mary was “full of grace” is an extremely important reminder that we too, can be full of grace – full of the love of God. It is important for our youth to understand that no matter how many or few Facebook friends they may have, or how good or bad their grades are, or how much their parents embarrass them in front of their friends, God wants to fill them with his grace - they just have to let him in!
Finally, while Australia is indeed the ‘lucky country’, through the event of instant communication and social medial, the youth of today are exposed to the problems of our world more now than ever. Increasing violence, hardship, the disregard for human life and cyber-bullying can cause us all to ask where God is in our modern times? At the moment of the Incarnation, instead of turning His back on humanity, God sent His only begotten Son to redeem us. God chose to come to a people who time and time again had forgotten how to love Him. And God is still with us now – “and remember I am with you always, to the end of the ages” (Mt 28:20) – both through the Holy Spirit and by His presence in the Eucharist. In those moments when nothing seems to go right and everything is overwhelming us, we can take strength from the words of Gabriel to Mary: “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).
The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation
In keeping with the joyous theme of the Year of Youth, the Magnificat, proclaimed by Mary during the Visitation, is indeed a great song of joy!
Mary has gone from timid and unsure at the Annunciation to boldly proclaiming the greatness of God at the Visitation. During her journeying to Elizabeth, Mary’s grasp of her situation has changed, just as we all grow throughout our lives through education and life experiences. In making her proclamation, Mary is setting a great example for our youth in two ways.
First, she demonstrates that even though she was given a job she was a bit hesitant to do (we can all think of those!), she accepted it and has now grown in love of her new role. Second, Mary sets a great example of the need to give praise and thanks to God. Too often our prayers are limited to asking God for help – a big exam is coming up, I haven’t done my homework, etc! – and of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking God for help and indeed I would encourage you to do so, but Mary reminds us that it is also important to give thanks and praise to God when He has done “great things” (Lk 1:49) for us.
Finally, Mary provides an invaluable lesson in humility, through her acknowledgement of herself as a “lowly servant” (Lk 1:48) of God. The youth of today want everything right now! They don’t want to wait until they have that high paying executive job before they buy their Gucci handbag and Prada sunglasses – they want them now! Mary had to give birth to her child in a stable, live as a political refugee in Egypt and see her son executed in the cruellest of ways before she was crowned Queen of Heaven. Mary displayed strength in times of trial and patience before she, the lowly, was exulted (Lk 1:52).
The Incarnation and Visitation teach us all that God believes our youth are capable of achieving amazing things! It also serves as an important reminder that when times get tough, when we feel lost and confused and it feels like everyone hates us, God still loves us and we must remain faithful to his providence, as anything is possible for God.
Let us all go forward and visit our neighbour to annunciate the great joy of our faith!Br. Blake is a Novice with the Dominican Friars, residing at the Dominican House of Studies, East Camberwell.