By Seán-Patrick Lovett
Another day in Panama. Another morning catechesis somewhere in the city. Another theme to help young people immerse themselves in the spirit of a World Youth Day which, after the arrival of the Pope, is now in full swing.
I am the Servant of the Lord
On Thursday morning, the Parish of Cristo Redentor opened its doors to young pilgrims from California, Austria, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines.
The latter were by far the most numerous, and the most raucous. Their excitement was partly motivated by the presence of their very own Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. It was he who delivered the catechesis, or reflection, on the chosen theme of the day: “I am the Servant of the Lord”.
Cardinal Tagle began by quizzing the young people present about who had said these words, to whom, and why. Their responses (almost all correct), allowed him to explain how Mary’s reaction to the Angel challenges us, too, to think about what it means to place ourselves and our lives at the service of God and our neighbour.
Young people want to serve
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Tagle develops this concept of service, turning it into a broader reflection on “how our contemporary culture regards the terminology of servant, slave, slavery”.
“From the Old Testament to the New Testament”, he says, “there is a radical re-appropriation of the language of slavery and servanthood which is normally associated with dehumanization, something that is degrading”. The Cardinal goes on to clarify how, “in the Judeo-Christian tradition, set in the new context of Covenant Relationship”, this same language acquires something that is joyful. It even becomes a sign of being “a disciple of Christ”.
According to the Archbishop of Manila, “young people everywhere are more attracted to direct actions of service and charity”.
He admits that, “unfortunately, our approach to pastoral ministry towards the youth very often starts with doctrinal initiation”. It’s only afterwards that we get them involved in action. “But I see nowadays a need to reverse the process”, he says: “Let them experience service of neighbour, and let their hearts burn with service. Then you invite them to the “naming” of that experience”.
The Cardinal believes the problem does not lie with the young people, but with the pastoral approach of the Church. He is convinced, he says, that “if we bring them to situations in need of their loving service, they will gladly do it!”.