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home : from the bishop : from the bishop January 20, 2019


Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

St. Joan of Arc Church in Marlton
July 17, 2016

People born between the years 1980 and 2000 are called “the millennial generation” or, simply, “millennials.” 

Chances are that some of you here today were born after 2000 which makes you “post-millennials,” sometimes called “Generation Z.” 

No matter what you and your peers might be called, every generation can be identified by certain personality characteristics --- qualities, preferences and values --- that seem common with others in your age group over a lifetime.

In the last two years, “millennials” have become the largest generation in the U.S., surpassing people of my generation, the “baby-boomers.”  That is a very important fact since the characteristics and values that define you will also define the largest part of society for some time to come. 

Those who study such things tell us that the current generation is the best educated, the most knowledgeable and experienced with technology, and the most conscious of the environment. Millennials and post-millennials are also multi-taskers, more confident, diverse, creative, team-oriented, compassionate and progressive than previous generations. 

Despite all these very positive characteristics attributed to millennials and post-millennials, there is a quality and value that social scientists tell us is missing: this generation is not religious.  A large percentage simply does not believe in God or religion, at least as mainstream religious denominations present them.  That is not good news for our Church.  That is not good news for society or the world we live in.

And, yet, today, here in the Diocese of Trenton, we celebrate our own World Youth Day, as many young people from all over the world head to Krakow, Poland, for a weeklong international celebration.  Our young people here in the Diocese and on the way to Poland defy the description of this generation provided by researchers: you are religious; you do believe in God; you do have faith and live by its values; you are the hope of the Church. 

The special challenge for the young people of this generation is to take all those wonderful characteristics I described and lift them up to God; use them in God’s service and share them with all your sisters and brothers generously, unselfishly, joyfully.

As people of faith, along with people of other generations present with us at Mass today, let’s go back to the scripture readings we heard proclaimed and look for a theme. 

In the Book of Genesis, our first reading, we meet Abraham and Sarah.  They were both older and their lives were not easy, far from it.  Abraham and Sarah were believers, people of faith, who trusted in God despite the hardships and suffering they endured.  God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and, yet, now an old man, Abraham and Sarah were childless. 

Abraham could have given up, dismissed God’s promise, and ignored the rest of the world.  But he didn’t.  He kept looking for God, listening for God, trusting in God. 

When the three strangers approached Abraham, he sensed something special.  He showed hospitality, he opened his heart and his home to the strangers and made them his guests.  And they assured him that God’s word would be fulfilled because he had faith and never gave up. 

And we know that Sarah gave birth to the first son of many nations. 

In the second reading, we meet St. Paul writing to the Church at Colossae.  Like Abraham and Sarah, he, too, suffered much throughout his life.  He persecuted those who believed in the Lord Jesus. 

It was in his suffering, however, that he found Christ.  The Lord touched him, opened his eyes, his mind, his heart to his Good News.  St. Paul then welcomed the Lord Jesus; he showed him hospitality and the Lord made his home in him. He invited the Colossians to do the same, writing “it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. 

It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

Finally, in St. Luke’s Gospel, we meet Martha and Mary.  They, too, welcome the Lord.  They, too, showed him hospitality, although each in a different way: Martha, waiting on Jesus and the other guests; Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to his every word.  Both were attentive to the Lord who had come to them.  Both showed him hospitality, listening to the Lord and serving him with their own gifts.

My sisters and brothers, I think the theme of God’s Word today is “hospitality:” first welcoming God who created us into our lives, making God at home in our hearts, giving what we have back to him who first gave what we have to us. Whether we are “Baby Boomers” or “Millennials” or “Post-millennials,” God is not absent from us --- he’s knocking on the door to let him in. 

And whatever we experience in life, the difficult as well as the easy; the failures as well as the successes, we need to say “yes, Lord, come in and stay here.”  Help me believe so that I can help others.  Social scientists may say that the young, this generation, your generation is not religious.  Let World Youth Day prove them wrong and prove that the Lord Jesus is right and at home in our hearts!

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