Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"...[T]he other disciple ran faster..."

During Easter Mass on Sunday, did you notice the 2,000-year-old bragging rights surreptitiously preserved by St. John in his gospel?

"So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first..." (Jn 20:3-4)

John himself was "the other disciple" mentioned in this passage. The fact that he felt it pertinent to include this small detail in his account of that first Easter morning might make us smile, but it should also make young adult believers think. 

What might, at first glance, seem like an interesting but meaningless detail actually has a lot to teach college-aged Catholics. You see, John was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples – probably in his early 20s at the time of the Resurrection. 

He was also known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He had a special bond with our Lord and Christ recognized in John a close friend and loyal disciple. 

When the other disciples were hiding in fear during Jesus’ passion and crucifixion, it was John who bravely followed Christ along the way of the cross. It was John who stood strong at the foot of the cross. And it was John whom Jesus trusted to love and take care of his mother, Mary. 

Young adult Catholics, then, can find an inspiring example in John. The youngest disciple of Christ was, after all, the most faithful when it mattered most.

And time and time again, those of us who are blessed to work with college students are reminded that our Lord was really on to something.

The world may idolize youthfulness, but it also very often infantilizes young adults. It’s too often assumed that young adults are “slackers,” more concerned with social media, pop culture and socializing than with the things in life that really matter. 

Young adults today are often discouraged from rushing into “adult” responsibilities like marriage, having a family or social responsibility. 

But against this current, Christ and his Church have always looked to young adults as beacons of hope in the world and as stalwart examples of faithfulness.  Christ and his Church have always entrusted the young and energetic with being on the forefront of spreading the Gospel message.

And, thanks be to God, our young adults respond. 

They respond in faith. Without anyone to prod them into attending Mass, they still go. Faithfully… in droves. 

They respond in hope. Without anyone forcing them to, they eschew labels, they welcome strangers as friends, and they lend a helping hand whenever and wherever needed, in the model of Christ. 

The respond in love. Without anyone forcing them to care for the concerns of the poor and disenfranchised, they still care. They volunteer, they organize, and they set in motion good and selfless service in the world. 

Like St. John, our college-aged Catholics are often the best examples of Christian discipleship to all of us who have long left youth (and optimism…  and innocence…) behind. They are not embittered and they are not weighed down by “life.” They are truly and wonderfully “salt and light” for the world.

A wonderfully happy Easter to each and every college student at Ole Miss. Thank you for being an inspiration for me and so many others. Thank you for being an example for my children. And thank you invigorating the Church and inspiring all Christians to “run faster.”