The other day I was at a meeting of one of the parish zones at which they were choosing representatives to send to the parish council.
Except for the general coordinator who was elected by the whole group, they were supposed to meet with the representatives of their ministry from the sectors of the zone.
Some groups had no problems – especially the catechists and the treasurers. But one group, the representatives of the prophetic ministry (celebrators of the word, leaders of base communities) had an awful time, which was actually worse than I had imagined. (I won’t go into all the details.)
The three met and at first they chose the young man who had just begun to serve in that ministry in his village. The guy was reluctant, but I tried to encourage him. But the general coordinator came by and said that the pastor didn’t want inexperienced people in positions for the parish council. This is not what the pastor really said. But, based on this mistaken advice, another person was chosen.
I was taken aback, thinking of today’s first reading (1 Timothy 4: 12):
Let no one have contempt for your youth…
The Spanish from La Biblia Latinoamericana is more to the point:
No dejes que te critiquen por ser joven.
Don’t let them criticize you for being young.
The Greek word used – καταφρονέω – means «despise, treat with contempt, look down on.»
It is so easy to avoid listening to the young – or to deny them the chance to take on major responsibilities in the church and the world.
My work in campus ministry for 24 years taught me that we need them, for God calls the young to open new possibilities for us.
Can we deny them? Should we not, instead, encourage them?
Isn’t this what God said to Jeremiah (1:7-8):
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you…