Sunday, December 16
By Courtney Malawy
I started doing youth ministry because I fell in love with Jesus and I wanted to share the amazing love of God that I had found with others. I was reminded of this fundamental truth a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to attend the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry. The week is jam-packed with keynote speakers, workshops, booths selling the latest curriculums, breakout discussion sections, movies, and of course, prayer. Youth ministers from across the country gathered and all of us were seeking ways to improve our ministries and help teens better connect to God. While I was hoping to walk away with a list of 10 concrete ideas of how to engage our teens’ faith and increase the breadth of our ministry, I walked away with a concept far more valuable.
The second keynote speaker, Sister Josephine, challenged us youth ministers to decrease so that Jesus might increase. She reminded us to focus not on the size of our ministry, how fun our ice breakers are, or if our ministry makes the newspaper. Our obsession with control and defining success must decrease so that Jesus can come in. Through the gospel, prayer, and service it is He who will ignite the souls of our young people. It is He who will ignite all of our souls. I returned to one of the most important aspects of our faith… if we are living as disciples, people will know about Jesus through our actions and our words.
John the Baptist poses the same challenge to us today that Sr. Josephine did. He wants us to point towards Jesus like he does when the crowds ask if he is the messiah. Of course – share with those who have less, be fair, act justly. Those are cornerstones of living out our faith. When we do these things though, we can lose ourselves. It can become about the recognition. It can become about comparing how much we can do. It can become about us.
At the moment of this story in the Gospel, John the Baptist was immensely popular. He had his own devoted followers. He very easily could have made his ministry about him; about how big or about how radical it was. He could have easily lost the way. Instead, he chose to be the invitation. John decreased so that Jesus could increase.
This advent, as we prepare for Emmanuel, let us decrease, so that He may increase. Just like John we must be ever pointing to the one who’s sandals we are not worthy to loosen. Let us remember where we fell in love with Christ and let the way we live our lives be an invitation to Him.