Over this past weekend, 800 teenagers encountered and lived for Jesus Christ. On Sunday, March 4, they shared Him through a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard J. Malone.
Those gathered at the 66th annual diocesan Youth Convention took part in a series of learning session, service projects and prayer experiences. Sunday's Mass offered them some life advice straight from the Gospel.
A reading from the Book of Matthew, tells how Jesus entered a Jewish temple and overturned the tables of corrupt moneychangers.
"In that time of Jesus, for the Jews, the temple was everything to them," Bishop Malone explained in his homily. "The temple was not only their religious center, but their cultural, economic, political center. The temple was everything. At certain times of the year, every Jew had to go to make his way to the temple. When they went there, they had to pay a temple tax."
With only Roman or Greek coins, visitors had to change their "pagan" coins to Jewish currency to give to the temple. Jesus found corruption among the moneychangers, which angered Him. "It was a tragic thing when corruption and sin got into (the workings of the temple)," Bishop Malone said, admitting that sin has even found its way into the Catholic Church.
The bishop calls Jesus act of forcing the moneychangers out as "spring cleaning," removing the negative forces and allowing good spirits inside.
"He was trying to make a statement that there were things happening here that should not be happening, and let's restore the temple to its purpose and its purity, which is to focus on the God of the universe," he said.
Corinthians I states that humans are also temples.
The tough question the bishop asked was, "If we were to invite Jesus into this temple of Richard Malone, my body, my self, or the temple which is each of you, what would be the reaction of Jesus? What would he find there in me and in you that he would celebrate and affirm, and what might get Jesus a little bit upset him? ... What kind of spring cleaning would Jesus have to do in me and in you?"
The bishop recommended the Ten Commandments as a good checklist to tell if one's personal temple is as clean as it should be.
Closing out the convention, the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, who host the event, presented the Manus Christi Awards. Meaning "Hands of Christ," the Manus Christi Award is presented to graduating seniors who live as examples of Jesus through community service, parish leadership and educational study.
"These young leaders answer the call on a daily basis and their faith clearing goes beyond the walls of the churches into their personal lives, their communities and their family," said Sarah Leahy, ministry development coordinator for the diocese.
The annual convention draws teens from all over the eight counties of the Buffalo Diocese, who come to make friends and deepen their faith.
As a 16-year-old attending a charter school, Jennifer Cosgrove, finds it hard to bring up the subject of her beliefs with other students. She got the desire to share Jesus from convention.
"(I'll) try to convince more of my friends to join these sorts of things, because I know some of them are in the same position," she said. "They find it hard to talk about their faith." Try to bring people here. It is hard to talk about faith. "coming here you can talk about it all you want and not feel like you're in a bubble or something."
"It's been pretty fun. I learned a lot about sharing the word of God to others," said Alex Kubiniec, 17, from Assumption Parish in Buffalo. Looking back he recalls jumping into a ball pit with his friends as the highlight. This was not a giant Chuck E. Cheese pit, but a small 3 by 6 foot crate filled with colored balls, and during the expo, 10 teenagers.