In a TED Talk filmed earlier this year, Al Gore talks about his sense of optimism when it comes to Climate Change. (Please note that I am not discussing Climate Change or any other political issue here, but) Gore makes a strong case for optimism based upon his own political viewpoint (which I present not because I am advocating for his viewpoint as much as I am advocating for optimism)
When I was 13 years old, I heard that proposal by President Kennedy to land a person on the Moon and bring him back safely in 10 years. And I heard adults of that day and time say, “That’s reckless, expensive, may well fail.” But eight years and two months later, in the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, there was great cheer that went up in NASA’s mission control in Houston. Here’s a little-known fact about that: the average age of the systems engineers, the controllers in the room that day, was 26, which means, among other things, their age, when they heard that challenge, was 18.
We now have a moral challenge that is in the tradition of others that we have faced. One of the greatest poets of the last century in the US, Wallace Stevens, wrote a line that has stayed with me: “After the final ‘no,’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’, the future world depends.” When the abolitionists started their movement, they met with no after no after no. And then came a yes. The Women’s Suffrage and Women’s Rights Movement met endless no’s, until finally, there was a yes. The Civil Rights Movement, the movement against apartheid, and more recently, the movement for gay and lesbian rights here in the United States and elsewhere. After the final “no” comes a “yes.”
When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right and what is wrong, the outcome is fore-ordained because of who we are as human beings. Ninety-nine percent of us, that is where we are now and it is why we’re going to win this. We have everything we need. Some still doubt that we have the will to act, but I say the will to act is itself a renewable resource.
After the final ‘no,’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’, the future world depends.
We claim that the work we do serves the church today. Any work with young people, however, is inherently the work of the future as well. It is truly the work of the future when it engages young people in decisions of yes.
Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to young people, once suggested that “young people are also led to think that it is impossible to make definitive choices that commit you for life.” However, he reminded the young people that “each of us was created to make, not provisional and reversible choices, but definitive and irrevocable choices which give full meaning to existence.
Our now Pope Emeritus continued “God created us with a view to the ‘forever’ and in each of our hearts He placed the seed for a life that creates something great and beautiful.” “Thus, with great trust, I address myself to each of you and say: it is not easy to make something great and beautiful of your lives … but with Christ everything is possible.” “Have the courage to choose that which is essential in life!” he exclaimed.
Does the ministry you offer young people led them to making specific choices for their live, towards our future? In what ways do you do the work of the Spirit and seek a yes?