In this Year of Faith, we've all been thinking about how to evangelize more effectively, and no group is more coveted in this mission than our youth. Word on Fire blog contributor Father Michael Cummins looks to Scripture for inspiration, and finds a lesson in two figures that we all would be remiss to ignore.
On January 31st, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. John Bosco – a saint who devoted his life to helping young people. This saint and his feast day have led me to reflect on my own experience of ministering to youth and young adults, especially in a time and culture that is “youth obsessed.” We can readily see how this obsession is played out in all areas of society – the entertainment and news media industry, politics, sports, education, relationships – just to name a few. Yet, my own reflection led me to wonder how might this obsession with youth bleed into and perhaps even negatively influence the Church’s ministry to youth and young adults as they seek to claim their own Christian faith and spirituality?
I will start by stating that one of the core convictions I have gained in my ministry with youth and young adults is that young people do not benefit from older people trying to act young; rather young people benefit when their elders remember their own age and are authentic to whom they, themselves, are.
To use the language of Scripture: in our culture today, our young Samuels need the guidance of older and wiser Elis. For any person involved with young people, 1 Samuel 2-3 is a must read. I have returned again and again to this Scripture passage for wisdom and I have come to believe that Eli is an often unsung hero in Scripture. I would like to use this encounter between the young Samuel and the elder Eli as a means to share some thoughts.
In the second chapter of 1 Samuel, we are told that the Lord had withdrawn his favor from the house of the priest Eli due to the corrupt actions of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Yet the young Samuel “continued to grow both in stature and favor with the Lord and with men.” (1 Samuel 2:26) In the third chapter we find the famous scene of the young Samuel hearing the voice of the Lord, mistaking it for the voice of the old priest and going each time to the sleeping Eli until finally Eli catches on to what is happening and instructs the young man in how to respond...
The mother of all superhero movies is here. Jack Thornton braved the record breaking crowds to bring us our most recent film review.
Five years ago an eye-patch wearing, stone faced Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appeared at the very end of “Iron Man” hinting at a mysterious “bigger picture” and fan boys everywhere giggled in delight. Their girlfriends (those few that had them) rolled their eyes and checked their fingernails for blemishes. Then the fan boys giggled again.
Anticipation for “The Avengers” has been building since that little conversation with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/Tony Stark. Every Marvel flick since then has included some small reference to the superhero, all-star smackdown causing escalating excitement. The results so far have been jaw-dropping. The film has made over $150 million overseas and pulled in over $200 million in the U.S., smashing the $169 million opening weekend mark set by last year’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.”
Here’s the basic premise. The evil trickster god Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the jealous brother of the lightning god Thor, steals a cube called the Tesseract that, among other things, is a source of infinite power and can open doorways between dimensions. He makes a deal with a scary race of aliens. They will give him an army with which to conquer Earth and he will give them the Tesseract so they can rule the universe. The secret government agency SHIELD throws together a team of superheroes to fight the evil invaders.
Today's first reading from 1 Samuel offers the culmination to an Old Testament story of ecclesial corruption. Father Steve's homily offers a comparison to our current age, drawing our attention to the biblical means by which God acts to bring about renewal in His Church.
Since Monday the Church has presented these marvelous scripture passages from the first Book of Samuel.
The story presents not just the early life of one of Israel’s most formidable prophets, but the story of Israel itself, beset by troubles, particularly the corruption of its religious leadership.
As the people languish, the corruption of Israel’s priests is met by the power of God who acts to bring about change through the birth of a child. This child would be given over to the service of the Lord’s sanctuary and would, as an adult, initiate the great events that would lead to the kingdom of David.
Today we hear about what the depth of the corruption of Israel’s priests brings upon Israel. The Israelites are delivered into the hands of their enemies, and the Ark of the Covenant is lost.
Among the dead are the sons of the high priest Eli, the priests Hophni and Phinehas.
Eli’s corruption was that knowing of the crimes of his sons, he did nothing. Now, his sons are dead, and Israel has been shamed before the world.
The scripture that follows includes the damning detail that when the priest Eli hears of the deaths of his son, he falls over backward, and because of his immense girth, breaks his neck and dies.
The resonance of today’s scripture to our own times and circumstances is uncanny...