I love explaining this to people because it means that today’s teenagers, whether they realize it or not, value truth. More than the message of, “What’s true for you may not be true for me,” young people want to hear, “_____ is good. _____ is intrinsically evil.” Even if they don’t immediately act in accordance with the truth, they certainly want to hear it.
Blessed John Paul II witnessed this reality too. In his speeches and writings, he often addressed young people specifically. He encouraged us, taught us, and challenged us. Instead of softening or diluting the truth so it would be “easy” for us to hear, he told us to “be not afraid.”
When we set high standards for ourselves and each other, we are saying, “I haven’t given up on you. You are capable of more.” The truth is challenging. It stretches and sometimes scares us. It compels us to let go of mediocrity, hurdle over obstacles, rid ourselves of our vices, and refuse to be complacent. We are drawn to it for the same reasons we are often drawn to run marathons or the Tough Mudder, to become Navy SEALs, to go through pre-season conditioning, and to beat a world record. Pope Benedict XVI told us:
It is not true that young people think only of consumerism and pleasure. It is not true that they are materialistic and self-centered. Just the opposite is true: young people want great things. They want an end to injustice. They want inequalities to be overcome and all peoples to have their share in the earth’s goods. They want freedom for the oppressed. They want great things, good things.
This is why young people are — you are — once again fully open to Christ. Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, He shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.
When He speaks of the cross that we ourselves have to carry, it has nothing to do with a taste for torture or of pedantic moralism. It is the impulse of love, which has its own momentum and does not seek itself but opens the person to the service of truth, justice and the good. Christ shows God to us, and thus the true greatness of man.
As a whole, my generation has been suckered into way too many lies and low standards, which never fail to deliver profound disappointment. Our teachers didn’t know all the answers. Instagram didn’t result in us being more deeply known and cherished. The anti-bullying campaigns didn’t stop the gossip. Our Toms and Topsiders didn’t fulfill our desire for acceptance. Getting drunk didn’t make us any more confident or happy.
Young people are sick of lies and low standards, and we stand ready to exchange them for truth and love. Only within the Catholic Church are those treasures found in fulness. Young Church, let’s continue to sharpen our ability to recognize even the most polished liars, be relentless in our search for truth, and encourage one another to accept nothing less than greatness!
The Holiness Today: Only the Saints Will Change the World