ALL of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, experience turning points in our lives. You may have heard of the term metanoia, turning away from sin and turning back to God and His love.
This may seem incredible but numerous people, youths and adults, have experienced this turning point in their lives and responded to the altar call during Shine Jesus Shine (SJS) rallies.
What happens to them? A group of Catholics called The Befrienders, trained by the New Evangelization Team, then gets to know them better and leads them to the parishes near their homes where they may want to attend the Rite Of Christian Initiation Of Adults and get to learn about our faith.
Those who have problems attending regular classes but are keen to know more about Catholicism are introduced to facilities like the correspondence course in catechism.
SJS rallies aim to reach the youths through a variety of ways: music, praise and worship, skits, talks and of course the Eucharist and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
It may seem just like an isolated yearly event but the way in which God touches the lives of so many during the rally makes it so worthwhile for those who help organise it - youths who want to reach out to others their age.
In fact the number of youths (some 3,000 this year) who packed the halls to participate in the SJS rallies is a sure sign of hunger for spiritual food. It is up to us to provide it in ways that appeal to them and SJS does so in style through vibrant music and song, role playing, the Eucharist, the whole works!
The youths I spoke to after the Nov 29 event shared that they felt happy to participate. In the words of one, the “Shine Jesus Shine rally was not a one-off happening but it was an experience that brought an awareness of God’s presence in our lives and a deepening of faith”. Although many young people do not join youth groups, the SJS helps them to become aware of the need to come together and to grow in faith together.
I know that these youths have grown stronger in their faith, participate actively at Mass and are open to the presence of God in their lives. The annual rally has helped them in their spiritual journey and has enabled them to walk closely with Jesus.
But hold on. The SJS rally is not the only event for Catholic youths to look out for. Don’t forget the quarterly Emmaus Evenings which are on a smaller scale but with the same focus: to reach out to youths in ways that appeal to them.
The year 2002 is now here and what do I have in mind for you apart from the Shine Jesus Shine rally, Emmaus Evenings and faith formation programmes?
This year I hope to reach out to you through other avenues so that you will be able to realise that the words of Christ are a reality in your life: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full. ” (John 10:10)
SPEAKING about the New Year, I am sure that you have a whole string of resolutions, just as I have mine.
Since the year has just begun, I feel that it would not be too late to consider adding some resolutions, which I feel are important, to your list (that is, if you have left them out):
■ Set aside some time for prayer every day.
■ Put God first. You will in time realise that things work better when you focus on God.
■ Live a good Christian life by always asking and doing what God wants you to do.
■ Make a regular effort to share God’s love with others.
One piece of good news for this year is a new Catholic Youth Centre which will enable us in the youth ministry to reach out to you better and facilitate your reaching out to us as well.
I will tell you more about this later but for now my wish, dear young friends, is that you will be able to experience God’s love and presence in your lives more fully and let His light shine through you for all to see “...so that seeing your good works they may give the praise to your Father in Heaven. ” (Matthew 5: 16) Best wishes for the year ahead and may God bless you all.