November 25, 2011

Speaker encourages youths to read Scripture for guidance and support

Life Teen executive vice president Mark Hart of Phoenix urges National Catholic Youth Conference participants to read the Bible during his keynote address on Nov. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Life Teen executive vice president Mark Hart of Phoenix urges National Catholic Youth Conference participants to read the Bible during his keynote address on Nov. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

Never forget, Mark Hart told 23,000 National Catholic Youth Conference participants, that God created you, loves you and seeks a closer relationship with you.

“Prayer is your relationship with God,” Hart emphasized in his keynote address to teenagers on Nov. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“This morning, we have been proclaiming the word of God, searching for Christ, seeking Christ,” he said. “In the Book of James, there is a beautiful little verse. … It changed my life when I first read it. It says, ‘Draw near to God and he will draw near to you’ ” [Jas 8].

The executive vice president of Life Teen International, husband and father of three daughters from Phoenix reminded the teenagers that they should be proud to share their Catholic faith with others.

“Faith moves you forward,” he said. “Faith gets God’s attention.”

And faith reminds you that sin doesn’t have power over you, Hart said, if you follow God’s commandments.

The Bible is “God’s love story for us,” he said. “[In the Book of Genesis], in the beginning, you hear about a God so mighty, so sovereign, so powerful that he creates everything out of nothing. Think about this. He said the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, and everything sprung into existence” (Gn 1).

The Book of Genesis also recounts how Adam and Eve disobeyed God then hid from him in the Garden of Eden, Hart said, but the Lord searched for them in “the world’s first game of hide and seek” to draw near to them again.

“Sin separates us, it divides us, from God,” he said, but God’s grace multiplies and is far greater than any type of sin.

“We believe that this [conference] is about us seeking God,” Hart told the teenagers. “You got on planes. You got on buses. You got in vans. You put on really great T-shirts and insanely cool hats, and you came to seek God, … to deepen that relationship that already exists.”

Raising his well-worn Bible, he encouraged the youths to read Scripture for guidance and support.

“One of the best gifts we have in this beautiful story, this love story that God gives us, is this reminder constantly that sins separates,” he said. “… When we fail to pray, when we remain silent, when we don’t draw near to God, oftentimes that silence is because there is sin [in our life]. Oftentimes, that silence is because we broke the relationship.”

When we sin, we are running away from God, Hart said. “The sheep can run, but the shepherd runs faster. … You can’t outrun God. No sin is too great. No sin is too large.”

Turn around and run back to God, he said, who has “a bigger Kleenex” available through the sacrament of reconciliation.

“God knows that nothing else in this world will satisfy you or bring you the joy or the peace that you desperately desire except him,” he said. “Blessed John Paul II, my hero, reminded us that it is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness. He is the only one who is going to satisfy the deepest, most ardent desires of your heart.”

When you “get into your faith,” Hart said, “you’ll like the way it makes you feel. … Jesus is your Savior. It’s by the name of Jesus Christ that you will be saved. … He is the Savior of the world. Until we wrap our heads around that, we’re never going to have the kind of intimate relationship with God that he wants to have with us. … It’s in prayer—it can be a prayer of desperation, it can be a prayer of joy—it’s in prayer … that the cross changes shoulders.”

Catholics should take great pride in the word of God, he said, because “it was our Church that compiled this book of holy Scripture—73 books written over 1,600 years by 45 authors—4,000 promises in this book made to you.”

God draws near to us in the Eucharist, reconciliation and the other sacraments, Hart said. “The God of the universe loves you so much that he would rather die than risk spending eternity without you.” †

 

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