You ARE NOT Just Another…
I’ve never really cared for icebreakers during retreats or any other group function, for that matter. It’s usually because they’re a little too silly for me. However, lately I have been recalling one from a retreat of which I was a part 31 years ago. It was, in fact, my first retreat to assist with as a priest. I had just been ordained about 5 months before. It was an overnight retreat for high school youth from various schools. During our first small group gathering we asked each of the students to do the following: choose a word that best describes you, but make sure that the word begins with the same letter as the first letter of your first name. So, for example, we came to a young lady named Lucy. She was a happy girl whose laugh was contagious. She chose for herself, “Laughing Lucy.” As we went around the group for sharing, we got closer and closer to a young man who had been rather quiet all day. He looked a little sad or preoccupied. When it came time for him to share, he was reluctant to do so at first. Then, however, he simply said, “I’m Just Jason.” One of the leaders asked him if he wanted to share why he had chosen that word, but he did not. Later in the day, during our lunch break, I took a walk with Jason. As we walked and talked, I came to know a young man who was in a difficult place in life. Along with other issues, he had been having a difficult time making friends, he was struggling with his grades in school, and so on. He had chosen the name, “Just Jason,” because, at that point, at least, he didn’t really feel like his life amounted to much. As we visited, I did the best that I could to help him believe that he was much more than just another guy. About a year later, I ran into Jason in the mall, and sure enough, he was in a much better place. He had never forgotten that small group activity or our conversation. He had grown to believe that he was so much more than what he thought he was a year earlier.
We have been celebrating Mass this year with our students at school but doing it by grade level. Due to the COVID-19 precautions, we feel this is the safest way to do so. Recently, the first reading of the day was from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Part of that passage reads, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer. 1:1) It is beyond our understanding to consider, that, before we were even conceived in the womb of our mother, God knew us by name and had a special plan for us, a purpose, a vocation. It is beyond our human understanding to fully comprehend what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, but we are. You and I are wonderfully made, and nothing can take that away. No major life pitfall, no hurtful words or actions inflicted on us by others, no-thing. Period.
So, the next time you’re feeling low, down, or beaten, remember this: you are definitely NOT just another. You’re not just another name on the list, not just another number, not just another person on the street. You are a living, breathing, vessel of God’s love and the Holy Spirit. Draw strength from that promise.
Bring that promise to others.