HOW can one be sure to go to heaven?
That’s probably a question most people haven’t thought about lately, or at all. And the focus of the Church year starting today, are probably the least mindful of heaven, hell, or anything else to do with the afterlife: the youth.
Meeting one’s Maker isn’t likely to cross the minds of most teenagers and young adults, let alone children. Especially not in a world full of a zillion excitements, oodles of them instantly accessible with random clicks on the smartphone, computer, or TV remote.
So, one wonders if Catholicism’s Year of the Youth from today till December 1, 2018, would grab the youth. Ditto the theme of the Synod of Bishops in October: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
But, you know, the youth might just pay attention, because believe it or not, the young do want to go to heaven. For starters, surveys reveal that millennials, now in their 20s or so, are idealistic. They want goodness, truth and justice in life and the world, and would seek beneficial and meaningful change, even in the face of entrenched enormities.
Millennials also want peace, not just the absence of war, but equanimity in self, family, career and society. No agonies and anxieties, deception and confrontation, exploitation of people and despoliation of nature. The very things that heaven is supposed to give for all eternity. Or even now for those who live the heavenly way as our Lord has shown.
Generation Y Not?
In a survey of American millennials last year, the US polling company Gallup found idealism in the so-called Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1996; they want to work for organizations with mission and purpose.
“Millennials are a largely optimistic group, and they believe that life and work should be worthwhile and have meaning,“ reports Gallup. “They look for work that fuels their sense of purpose and makes them feel important.” From “my paycheck“ to “my purpose,“ as one article about the survey put it.
And they would challenge even established norms and structures: “Millennials are pushing for change in the world—including in the marketplace and the workplace. They don’t accept ‘that’s the way it has always been done’ as a viable answer.” One might call these twentysomethings “Generation Y Not?”.
So, the young might just be in the market for some religion, especially the kind that offers lofty purpose, strives for good in the world, and offers peace of mind, heart, soul and family, if not society.
Does the Church offer the kind of purposeful, engaging life and work millennials want?
Not that the youth will fill churches for masses, processions, catechism, choir, and charity work, though many will surely take up such activities, along with the religious life as nuns, brothers and priests.
Rather, Catholic teachings, especially social and moral tenets, can offer the purpose, ideals, and vision millennials may want as the foundation and direction of their lives. The why of the Y Generation.
For 20-year-olds, a 2,000-year-old faith
Now, what exactly can guys and gals in their 20s to mid-30s see in the faith of Jesus Christ, who died at 33?
Jesus preached love. Not the fleeting kind that fades or fizzles at the first quarrel or the next looker that catches one’s glance. Rather, it is the lifelong devotion to a God who seeks all that is good, just and beautiful for humanity and the world. And charity toward all creatures, especially the weak and the needy. And this charity begins at home.
Will millennials go for that? Well, in a poll by the Collage Group covering generations born before 1965 till 2000, the second most important element in their vision of their ideal life is family. And the top for millennials and the younger Generation Z, born at the turn of the century, is happiness. (For later generations, understandably, health is tops.)
And certainly, a faith that preaches the love of a Father, a Son, a Blessed Mother, and the community of believers — that’s certainly family.
As surveys have shown, millennials also want meaning and purpose. And that includes being taken seriously and treated with respect and consideration by higher-ups, whether teachers, parents or bosses, according to “The 15 things millennials want in life,“ posted on the LinkedIn site.
Now, last time we checked, Jesus preached that he who would be master or leader among men must serve others. So, if the hierarchy, the clergy, and lay leaders exercise authority through service, they would certainly give the youth the personal worth and welfare they value. And that service mantra is as purposeful a direction as one can find.
But hang on, millennial bashers may retort, how can a religion preaching self-sacrifice to the point of death win over a age group label variously as “The Me Me Me Generation”, the “Peter Pan Generation”, and “The Entitlement Generation”?
Well, the same arkadin.com blog that cited those labels also noted: “The upside is that millennials are also innovative, open-minded, confident, self-expressive, collaborative, upbeat, liberal, altruistic and receptive to new ideas.” And among the 15 millennial must-haves in the LinkedIn blog: “Finding meaning in all endeavors.“
That’s not too far off from the man who confidently preached the utterly unheard-of, out-of-the-box idea of loving one’s enemies, sought out a dozen collaborators from a wide range of men, was open and friendly with all walks of life, to the outrage of self-righteous authorities, and had the most upbeat notion that there was life after death.
So, will millennials go for Jesus Christ?
Yes, if the Church shows them the real Son of God.