Sat. Oct 24th, 2020

Did you hear “Laurel” or “Yanny”? Did the dress look white and gold or black and blue? Do you think the batter is batting left-handed or right-handed?
Over the past few years, and most likely for the foreseeable future, we will encounter images, sounds, or memes that will go viral. The debate spreads like wildfire, and interestingly these debates often illustrate some pattern of human behavior or an often-overlooked nugget of science.
For the record, I am team Laurel, the dress was white and gold, and I like basketball and football more than baseball.
One image that I’ve seen shared a few times on social media lately is some variation of the following sentiment — nobody talks about Jesus’ miracle of having 12 close friends in his 30s. It could be a tweet, or an Instagram post with the Last Supper or another Gospel image in the background, but the message certainly got me thinking.
As a millennial and a young adult, part of me understands the deeper emotion behind this viral post. It’s difficult to maintain friendships when the seasons of life vary greatly from those single, engaged, newly married, or married with children.
To use our own lives as an example, one of my best friends from college married my brother, so I fortunately see her very often for family functions. Our core group of college friends is spread out over the Gulf Coast and beyond — from Atlanta to Baton Rouge and everywhere in between.
We each now have our own lives, and visits or even conversations can be few and far between. Social media does allow us to be more connected, as I believe we still have a general sense of the latest personal happenings.
“Nobody talks about Jesus’ miracle of having 12 close friends in his 30s.” Let’s examine that from a more theological approach for a moment. Jesus invites each and every one of us into friendship with him. He asks us, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) When the first disciples reply, Jesus invites them to come and see where he is staying; the encounter was so powerful that they remembered the exact time of day it occurred (John 1:39)
How do I best respond to Jesus’ invitation of friendship? If I reach out to others, if I give back to the poor or the suffering, our friendship deepens. When I selfishly choose my sin, or myself, our friendship suffers.
As we encounter Christ in a real and true way, our lives begin to change. Often, young people who are deeply moved at a youth conference or retreat find that returning to the valleys after a mountaintop experience to be difficult or frustrating. They have been transformed and changed for the better, but situations at home or school have not.
We know that friendships can often be toxic or damaging to young people. Social media has even exasperated this, as attempting to keep a Snapchat streak active propels young people to have contact with people who are just not good for their personal or spiritual development.
As adults and leaders in the Church, we must encourage our young people to foster good, authentic friendships that will bring them closer to Heaven. Maintaining close friends that will keep us accountable is a positive step towards sainthood. Those types of friendships are fostered in our Catholic schools, in vibrant youth ministry programs, and events like ACYC and Search Retreats.
Peer to peer witnessing is such a life-giving endeavor. In two months, I’ll be at the National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministry with my peers in diocesan and parish youth ministry. Our recent ACYC JR. for middle school youth was a positive experience because peers had the opportunity to share fun and faith with each other. Our upcoming Search Retreat on Nov. 19 is a retreat “for teens, by teens” which adds an additional element to a young person’s faith development.
Perhaps it was a miracle that Jesus had 12 close friends in his 30s. Yet, the Church is alive, young, and full of Christ’s friends. It’s our responsibility as Church to truly make a friendship with Jesus go viral.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
Visit our website, www.ArchMobYouth.org Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/ArchMobYouth and follow us on Twitter and Instagram – @ArchMobYouth

By Editor

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