When Longo was a youth he lost his faith and rejected everything about the Catholic Church. He turned to drugs and practised devil worship as he sought to find meaning in his life. During this period he trained as a doctor and in his late 20s he went through a conversion experience which enabled him to become a Christian disciple and do so much good for other people. He discovered the presence of Christ in his life and began a relationship with Him which finally gave his life meaning.
Bartolo Longo is a good example of what needs to happen to us in our lives. We can be tempted to think we can find meaning for our life in all sorts of different directions and practices. What was true for him is true for us – we will find meaning for our life in the relationship we have with Jesus.
In our Church we have a wonderful way of life that is full of great richness: the teachings of the Church, its guidance, its liturgy, is a beautiful and wonderful way of living. But to enter into that we have to go through a door that opens up that life and that door is the relationship we have with Jesus.
The Year of Youth is taking place in Australia this year. It has a big role to play in helping the young people who belong to our Church to discover the relationship with Jesus that should be the centre of their lives. If we were to base any of our activities on any other foundation, it wouldn’t work. We need to see that at the very core of any of our ministry, but especially to our young people, we have to develop the ability in our Church to help people develop a living relationship with Jesus through the Scriptures, by engaging with God, speaking to us in the Word of God through the gospels.
As we go through the process of renewal in our archdiocese, the next big challenge is making our life centred upon the Word of God. We can talk about it, but the only way we can make it live in others is to live it ourselves. All of us have to engage with Jesus through the Scriptures so that in becoming a living reality for us, they can be shared with other people.
It’s really important for everybody to have a copy of the Scriptures and to read the gospels; it should be a part of the normal pattern of our day to read that day’s passages and to ask the question ‘what is Jesus saying to me today’. How can this deepen the relationship I have with Him and how can I use that relationship to energise me to do all the things I have to do in His name?
Many young people come from families who don’t satisfy their lives because of the disarray they find there – they are accompanied by hurt, disappointment, frustration. They can become quite cynical about what the world and life has to offer them and so we have to work really hard to take up the one antidote we have to overcome all that disappointment and pain.
Often young people deal with that pain and hurt by turning in other directions through alcohol, drugs, sex or relationships and that leads them to further problems and difficulties.
I believe we have the key to help people find happiness, and truth and goodness in their lives. And that comes about through the relationship we have with Jesus. He doesn’t say if you become a disciple of mine life will be easy and filled with joy and happiness. He doesn’t say we won’t have struggles with life and encounter difficulties, but what he does say is that I am with you always, I love you and I will help you and be present to you in your life.
We can have a big bible in our house and it can stay on the shelf, but what I’m suggesting is that we need little pocket-sized copies of the Scriptures that we can carry around, something that enables us to see that everywhere we go He is there looking at us with eyes of love. And our discipleship has to be characterised by returning His look of love with our look of love for Him.
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