CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Not a year to spend on the sofa

It is a new year. But it is not just another new year. It is also a Year of Youth in our diocese of Hong Kong as well as in other parts of the world like Australia. 
In fact, the Year of Youth began with the proclamation made by the bishop on the first Sunday of Advent, which traditionally marks the beginning of the new liturgical year in the Catholic Church.
Like it is common practice, each new year comes with a series of promises, resolutions and hopes. People pray for good health, success with their plans, new opportunities at work… Students long for better results at school and parents hope for a better family life and so it goes on.
Yes, as human beings, hope keeps us moving forward. But hopes and resolutions will just be hollow words if they are not backed up by concrete action. We know this too.
In his Advent message to the people of the diocese, Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung mentioned some points that deserve everybody’s attention.
They are in fact a summary of the many encounters he had with the young people of the diocese prior to writing his pastoral message.
As he said, the young people hope for a Church that is more outreaching; they ask for the Church to listen to them; they want the Church to be present on social media and other platforms.
They want the local Church to support its Youth Ministry in a more effective and efficient way. But what can we do to achieve these goals? This is the question that people, especially the young and youth ministers, like to ask. They need concrete proposals. I hope a few suggestions will be helpful in responding to these questions.
The sofa
The sofa is an expression coined by Pope Francis in his message to a crowd of young people at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. “In life there is another, even more dangerous, kind of paralysis… It comes from confusing happiness with lying on a sofa.
“Sofa-happiness!” A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of video games and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen… The times we live in do not call for young couch potatoes, but for young people with shoes, or better, walking boots.
“The times we live in require only active players on the field and there is no room for those who sit on the bench,” the pope said. It was a strong invitation to young people to live a more active life, the life of the missionary who does not find pleasure in comfort zones, but instead takes the risk of going out and doing something for, in and with Christ.
A noble mission! As a matter of fact, many of us want young people to be active and present in our society, in our Church. If today’s young people are active and enthusiastic, society will not worry much about their ability to handle the future.
However, when we look at our society today, we have reason to believe that the sofa culture does not concern young people only. The sofa culture is swallowing up many people, young and not young alike.
Trying to talk to some people gives you the impression of being in front of a do not disturb sign. 
We want our comfort zones. But if we all take this sign off our lives, we will then accept that young people are a chance, not a problem.
To take this risk, we need to get rid of the sofa too. I quote Bishop Yeung, “We are often told there is opportunity in danger and danger in opportunity, but there is a greater danger in not making use of opportunities or in refusing to take up the challenges that face us, from which we cannot excuse or recluse ourselves” (Advent Message 2017).
The sofa life is a kind of life that does not challenge itself.
Trying to put the Church on the one side and young people on the other may run the risk of thinking that youth do not belong to the Church or that the two are different or separate entities.
In fact, they are in the Church  and a part of the Church, in as there is only one body of the Lord. As such, we all are one family
Even though the way we are using the word Church here refers to the spirit and the way things are done, we need to ask if this spirit allows young people to feel at home in the Church.
We will find an answer to this question only when we begin to see that the many questions young people are asking, as well as the hope they put in the Church mean that they want to feel and live like true members of the family, not as passive listeners only, but as active missionaries who feel the call and want to answer it with their God-given potential.
In fact, if they did not care, they would not ask for anything.  Home, family… these are important elements of a happy life. In a family, we consider each member and treat them with care and respect. 
At home, we feel safe and are confident inside its embrace ,because it is the place where we belong. A family is composed of people of different ages that put their effort together to pursue the same goal, which is happiness for all the members.
Anyone who loves their family will not want something bad to happen to it. On the contrary, they will always speak of it and care for it in order to put all the pieces together. A family that cultivates a sense of dialogue and allows the spirit of listening to grow is a place where joy is felt.
By listening, we do not just mean hearing, but also the spirit of consideration. We make people feel comfortable, as we know that they too have something to offer. This is the hope for the Year of Youth as well.
But what shall we do? Communication and mutual understanding are important elements. They will keep us far from prejudice or bias, and cultivate the spirit of trust.
By putting up small structures like youth sharing groups, we will find ways to maintain a balanced family life where people express themselves in a spirit of faith and love. This is what family means as well. So, listening means risk. It may mean sacrifice as well. But it is possible.
Yes, activities and formation programmes aim to consolidate the faith and give us the opportunity to better express ourselves in a community of people. And in our context, these activities lead to the knowledge of Christ, the reason of our gatherings.
Activities are planned, but our participation is needed in order for them to become a reality. So, dear young people, let me talk to you directly… There are words of complaint, as we often hear that activities are planned, but they suffer from the lack of participation.
These are words I hear often. “Yes, Father, we have activities, but they do not attend because of other choices and priorities they’ve got… Or families do not encourage them to believe that Church matters too… Not easy to attract them since they seem not to be interested in Church matters.”
These are words from some youth pastoral workers. As I said, we can address these issues only when we sit together and speak frankly.
Our busy schedule may be the cause of this situation; online platforms may distract us from direct contact with people. Preconceived ideas on both sides may be a wall that separates us from the big community, but always looking for excuses may lead to this attitude as well.
So, the best way is to talk about it. Let us form platforms in our parishes, schools, communities and share with each other. In our sharing, we have no judges, but only the love of God that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. 
This is the aim of this year of the young people as well. I wish you a great one!
Father Dominique Mukonda CICM
Diocesan Youth Commission

More from this section