Isaac was dismayed that Mass was only celebrated a few times each year at his Catholic high school, so he gathered some students to organize a weekly chapel. They invited priests to say Mass once a month. However, they had to find some other way to keep chapel going during the intervening weeks, so Isaac led many of those morning chapel services himself. Following are notes that I found in preparation for a chapel service that he led in 2017. They are words to his fellow students about the unique crosses of the teenage years.
His Bible text:
As for man, his days are lie grass; he flourishes like a flower of he field; for the wind passes over ti, and it is gone, and the place knows it now more. What is man that you should care for him? Mortal man, that you should keep him in mind? [From Psalm 90]
But before I was conceived you knew me and all my days were known to you. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Carefully and knowingly you made me. Whither shall I go from your spirit or whither shall I flee from your presence? [From Psalm 139]
Did you not show your love to Noah with your bow in the sky, and the vastness of your promises with the cosmos to Abraham? Was it not you, O God, who led your people out of Egypt? Who with pillars of fire and cloud guided them? Who parted the Red Sea? Was it not you who through the ram, saved the son of Abraham?
His talking points:
You may have come across a person who has told you to enjoy your teenage years because they’re the best years of your life. Now, if you’re anything like me, you hope they’re wrong. Because being a teenager is a battle. And every one of us has fought on the front lines.
We are being judged by our grades, the people we hang out with, and our social media profiles. And deeper than that, we are fighting deep internal battles–fending off the shadows of hopelessness or worthlessness or loneliness or abandonment. We look toward the great and ominous future and are afraid of what’s to come. We are treading in murky waters, looking for a place to rest our feet, a rock to stand on, a solid hope.
I want to share with you a little bit from the life of Mother Teresa. You probably heard Mother Teresa was canonized a saint recently. And those who knew her were overwhelmed by the amazing joy she had. However, in her private writings, she described herself as having a “terrible darkness” in her soul “as if everything [was] dead.”
How could such joyful person feel that way? Worse, she felt that suffering for most of her life.
In our search for the answer, let’s turn to the Passion of Christ, his suffering and death. This is Holy Week and the week Jesus died. We remember how he who was perfect and sinless, the Sacrificial Lamb, was flogged and beaten, spit on and mocked, torn and bruised so that his form was marred much more than any man’s. How he was nailed to a cross, stabbed and left to die. How in the darkness and despair in his heart he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Mother Teresa described the darkness and despair of Jesus as the kiss of Jesus. Her suffering is her soul coming closer to the suffering heart of Jesus. The suffering and the pain and the sorrow and the loneliness of Jesus as he hung on the cross.
But this is not the end of the story. There is a resurrection and a redemption. Despite her suffering with Jesus, Mother Teresa had an inexpressible joy because Christ is risen and will raise us up too.
As young men, we are going through a lot trying to live up to the expectations of others and figure out who we are. But as we fight on the front lines or swim in the murky waters, there is a rock on which we can stand.
For me, a lot of this came my junior year and the summer after. Weighing me down was that I had to do impressive things to get into college. I was trying to impress others, and in doing so I was putting serving man in front of serving God. And on top of that, nothing seemed to be working. Despite even my best intentions, I was disappointing people. I felt like everyone was unhappy with me and no one understood what I was going through.
But a wise old Benedictine monk once told me, “There is great freedom in knowing that the only one you have to impress is God. And that trying to impress God is a hopeless case anyway, right? Because God sees everything.”
We have a rock to stand on. We, as Christians, are not for sale. There is a lot of high bidding out there in money, or lust, or personal achievement, or in how to impress others. That will seek to own us. But I’ll repeat, we are not for sale. We already have a Master. We have a rock to stand on. And we can endure suffering. We can endure sorrow and pain and humiliation. And even hopelessness. Because Christ endured so much more for us. Because there is hope. There is a resurrection.
Read previous offerings