I took great delight last night watching Jonathan Marone leave his seat and take his place at the ambo of Mother of Sorrows Church in Greece. Jonathan was chosen to give the youth witness talk at the first of three “Hands of Christ” recognition ceremonies that we’ll be holding in the diocese this week.
To hear the young people speak at these celebrations has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me for many years. These young people have clearly encountered the Lord; that encounter in turn has led them to significant engagement with their parish communities. I know that this has been true of Jonathan because he is from the Cathedral Community where I live and I have watched him grow over the years in his love of the Lord and in his spirit of service to others.
Jonathan told us how much the Gospel story of the young boy offering his few loaves and fishes to help feed the hungry crowd has meant to him. Jonathan said, “I believe the boy who offered the loaves and fishes is a strong example of what the ‘Hands of Christ’ is meant to symbolize. The boy, selflessly, gave what he could in order to help his fellow man. Although his sacrifice might have seemed trivial, through God’s intercession it had a major impact.”
To my mind, Jonathan understands perfectly what the “Hands of Christ” celebration means — that through our acts of service to others, we represent the presence of Christ, we discover Christ in those we serve and we grow in Christ’s love through the experience. His words led me to anticipate with joy the words of Marcus Belmore and Michelle Pavlina who will do the youth witness talks this evening and Saturday morning at St. John of Rochester, Fairport, and Our Lady of the Lake, Watkins Glen, respectively.
Last night, as I listened to Jonathan, I was looking at the 250 other high-school seniors gathered at Mother of Sorrows who had been nominated by their communities for their contributions to parish life. I wanted to hear all of their stories — how they first learned about Christ who had nourished their faith by word and example, how they had been invited and encouraged to share their gifts with the parish, what the experience has meant to them, how they will continue to love and serve the Lord as they move to post-high school life. They would be wonderful stories to hear.
I hope that all of these seniors will have the chance to tell their stories to their families and friends, and to their parish communities. It helps the young people because it re-enforces the connection they are already making between God’s presence and the ordinary events of life. It is a blessing to their families and parish communities because it’s a loving and gracious reminder of how much impact they have on our young people. Much more than they think!
At the heart of the “Hands of Christ” celebrations is the seniors being recognized and thanked. Very important to them as well is the presence of their parents and grandparents. I can’t tell you what a joy it is to speak with them on these occasions. They are understandably proud of their daughters and sons. They also are very grateful for the public recognition their children received and for the efforts of diocesan and parish staff who work so hard to organize the events.
As I conclude, I thank all of the wonderful seniors to be honored this week. You are God’s precious gift to our community, and I am deeply grateful for the life and gifts you bring to us. What you already do strengthens my hope about the future of our church. In your hands we’ll be in good hands.
I thank the mothers and dads, sisters and brothers, grandparents, pastors, pastoral administrators, youth ministers, teachers and all who have helped our seniors grow. You definitely have done lots of things very, very well.
Peace to all.