"To What Shall I Compare This Generation?"
I think all of my teaching colleagues have echoed the Gospel’s question at some point, wondering how to relate to the ever-growing gap between him or her and today’s students. It can seem that getting students excited about Jesus can fall on deaf ears, no matter what “song and dance” is attempted. But discovering how Jesus relates to one’s own generation is far from a new phenomenon.
For example, fifty years ago Christians were rethinking Jesus in the context of the hippie movement, women’s lib, and anti-Vietnam protests. Their unique spiritual expression differed from that exhibited by their parents. During this time, my own parents were deeply involved in the Cursillo program which consists of weekend retreats and small group follow-up. (My dad still meets with his group 43 years later.) The retreats help Christians deepen their faith individually and in community. This movement of the Spirit really spoke to them and to their contemporaries. I grew up hearing many stories and witnessing the many friendships they sustained from this era of their lives.
Going back even further, St. Ignatius’ development of the Spiritual Exercises was, in essence, an opportunity for individuals to deepen their faith in a way that had not been attempted before. Through the use of imagination, one could place oneself in a Gospel scene and witness Jesus in a new and deeper way. What a gift for Ignatius’ companions and for future generations!
Whenever my colleagues and I worry that today’s generation seems unreceptive to the Gospel, I remind myself that each generation must redefine Jesus for themselves. What does Jesus mean in the context of social media, immigration battles, global warming, #metoo, and so many other important issues facing our world now? For my students, this is a question for them to answer as future leaders of our world, not for me to answer for them. We can only pass on the tools and gifts of the past, and hope that they, too, can meet Jesus with fresh eyes.
Each Advent is an opportunity to rediscover who Jesus is. Who will he be for you?
Anne Kramer is a member of the Theology Department at Seattle Prep. She and her husband, Anton, are parents to
Monica `21, Jack (12), and Andrew (8).