Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The COVID-19 lockdown is taking a toll, particularly on youths. The trend is alarming and dangerous. The need for youths to come out of the lockdown as better persons cannot be overstressed.
Perhaps, this prompted the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Most Rev. Francis Obafemi Adesina, to address Nigerian youths on the occasion of the Diocesan Youth Day held on the virtual space on Saturday, April 18, 2020. The lockdown deprived them of celebrating the day physically.
He told them: “Lockdown or stay-at-home does not mean you should be less engaged or become idle. See this period of lockdown as a moment to be reconnected back to God and your neighbours. Have you been far away from the presence of God? This is an appropriate time to be reconnected back to Him in prayer and virtuous living.
“What are you doing with your free time? Don’t just use it to read or watch contents that are not edifying on social media, but use it to listen more to Christ and His Church
“This is an opportunity to draw closer to God by daily reading, reflecting and sharing the Word of God. Allow God to speak to you. Reach out to others in charity, for nothing is too little to share.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ in a digital world, use the social media to evangelise and share your faith with others. Stand up and be known for something Christian and something positive.
“It is often said that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Let this time of lockdown be a moment of learning or developing a new skill that can enhance your physical and spiritual well-being. If you have passion for singing, drawing or any craftsmanship that can be learnt while at home, now is the tome to develop it.
“Come out of the lockdown a better person. It is my hope that, after the COVID-19 lockdown is over, we shall be able to, together as diocesan body, youths from parishes and deaneries, thank God for protection and to showcase your newly acquired talents and skills learnt during the period of lockdown and be rewarded for creativity.”
The theme for the 35th World Youth Day 2020 was “Young man, I say to you, arise,” taken from Luke 7:14, as chosen by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Bishop Adesina described the theme as a definite injunction and a challenge to youths to stand up and be counted, to stand up for the truth, and to stand up as a light, shining in darkness.
He said, “This message cannot be more apt than now that the world currently experiences a great pandemic that has affected over two million of the world’s population. This message is timely, even to youths who have grown weary and discouraged due to various reasons.
“However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and He waits for you to return to Him and start over again. When you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, He will always be there to restore your strength and your hope.
“The verb ‘arise’ means to be on your feet. To stand on one’s feet is not to stand up and do nothing, but an invitation to stand ready for something. As Catholic youth, what do you stand for? As youths in the society, what do you stand up to defend?
“Youth is more than simply a period of time: it is a state of mind. Do you still have the youthful mind and vigour as a person or you have allowed the troubles of the country to sap the energies of youthful life from you? These are questions you must ponder on daily.”
Adesina also spoke on the narrative of Luke 7:11-17 in the Bible, which recorded the account of how Jesus raised the widow’s son at Nain, and drew great lessons for young and old to learn from:
“In His Galilean ministry, Jesus came into the town called Nain and as He entered the town, he saw a funeral procession of a young person, the only son of a widow. Jesus was obviously moved with pity and compassion and in His ministry, miraculously restored life to the widow’s son. We live in a world where there are much pains and misery, even in our immediate community.
“Around us are realities of death, which may not only be physical but also spiritual and moral. Pope Francis, in his letter, talks about the physical or moral death that young people face today like gambling, addiction, drunkenness, poverty and so on. It is not enough to feel helpless in this kind of situation, but look for ways you can truly help by speaking out and sharing your Christian values.
“In raising the widow’s only son, Jesus gave life to the boy. The death of the boy signified the end of so many dreams. It looked like the end of the only thing that mattered in the world to this widow. Jesus did not only restore joy back to the face of this widow, but He also restored life to the young man.
“What are those things you are battling with? What are those talents you have buried in you because of lack of support or guidance? Jesus is telling you to stand up once again and start afresh.
“You might have had bad experiences in the past but that is not enough to now surrender or withdraw. You can awake the sleeping giant in you and start afresh again. If you have lost your vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once He stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection, He urges you:
“Young man, ‘I say to you, arise!’ Be rest assured that you have in me, your bishop and in all the priests and religious leaders working in our diocese, ready spiritual companions.
“As young people, you might have experienced setbacks, disappointments and profoundly painful memories from the society, friends and even from the self.
“This might have made many persons to withdraw and backslid. Jesus stands before you again and urges you to rise and start afresh. Things may not be going as planned, but giving up is certainly not the option. To stand up is to start afresh and be rejuvenated. To stand up is to re-strategise and give it another try.
“Setbacks can be God’s way of telling you that I will do something new in your life. At the death of the young man, the mother thought all hope was lost, but Jesus put a smile back on her face and she laughed. Do not give up on yourself for God would not give up on you. In all your pains, Jesus makes himself present and offers you his friendship, his consolation and his healing companionship.”