Two experiences empowered my heart during ACYF 2017 in Sydney: prayer, and the sessions with Emily Wilson.
The power of prayer with youth during plenary meetings, the enthusiasm of the youth crowd, and their responses to what was happening was just astonishing and amazing. Also, their prayer in silence in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament was very built up.
In the session, “Loved, Worthy, Blessed and Beautiful”, Emily Wilson truly amazed me with her faith, enthusiasm and explanation of chastity, healthy relationships, self-esteem and healthy self-image, and the importance of heaving a personal faith and relationship with God.
I would like to share some of the thoughts which I heard during Emily’s session.
Emily based her speech on the Gospel reading about the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4:1-30). She said, every one of us has the desire to be loved, to be held, to be cared for, to be protected. God created us with this desire in our hearts. The important thing is where we direct our desire, where we look for love, acceptance, and affirmation. Very often, we look for fulfilment in the wrong places. The Samaritan woman chose to look after her desire through the love of men, but men do not fulfil our hearts fully. Our desire, thirst and hunger for love can only be fulfilled by God. The important thing about us is that we are DAUGHTERS OF GOD: we are loved and accepted as we are. We do not have to grasp the attention or love of others. We are already loved by God, and what others think about us does not matter.
Our perfection and thinking, “I wish I was better, I want to be someone else”, make us very hard on ourselves. Before we say to ourselves: “I can do anything good, I AM BEAUTIFUL AND LOVED DAUGHTER OF GOD”, we say: “I hate myself”. From the world we get the idea that we have to be perfect. We believe that our best is not enough. The world is saying “you have to have perfect body, hair, outfit…” Making mistakes does not make us failures, but we start to believe that. Our God asks us to do our best. We are already BEAUTIFUL AND LOVED DAUGHTERS OF GOD.
We have basic needs, and we have the desire for something greater than the world is offering us. God’s love is not the same as our love for our husband or wife, for ice cream, and so on, because God’s love is unconditional and brings great joy. Our God is a God of intimacy, which means an existence of closeness between two beings. Maybe we do not believe in ourselves but God believe in us and wants to have a relationship with us.
In the second part of the session, Emily’s talk was based of the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11). Emily raised the question: Why do we throw stones at others? And her answer truly fascinated me. Here are some of her thoughts.
Because we do not think about ourselves in a positive way, we throw stones at others instead of allowing God to lift us up. It happens because we feel insecure. From where does our insecurity come? We start comparing ourselves and competing with others. Others are better, others have something better than we have…. We are not as good as others are… We think “I am behind”. It drives us to tear others down. Instead of measuring up we start to compete. We become insecure and unkind to others, we start shooting them down, we start rumours about them. We stone them because we feel bad about ourselves. The only reason why people tear others down is because they feel bad about themselves and they try to take the other person down with them. Confident people do not tear others down. Does anyone feel better about themselves when they do that? No, it never works. It means that we have to throw our insecurity out. We can do that through prayer – ask God to cure our insecurity. Second – we should identify what is the insecurity in our life and ask God to come into these places. Third – identify ourselves as a DAUGHTER OF GOD. We have to remember who we are in our deepest identity as a DAUGHTER OF GOD. It makes us strong and empowered. We are walking with our Lord. A woman who believes in God and herself is strong, brave and she is who she is, who God created her to be. Do you identify yourself as a Daughter/Son of God? I DO.
Sr Bogumila Malikowska