When Simeon looked at the infant Jesus in Mary’s arms, he felt a deep sense of satisfaction that at last, all that he had hoped and lived for had been fulfilled.
It is a moment of absolute joy shared by so many parents as they gaze upon their children, so full of promise, so full of potential.
Modern day Trinidad and Tobago however, jolts us back to the harsh reality of our times, that many of our sons are missing, many of our sons find themselves trapped in a morass of violence and crime, in a spiral of apathy and victimhood, either unable or unwilling to climb out.
This is a national problem but more specifically, it is a Catholic Church problem which must be confronted. More than 50 per cent of the young men who emerged from the ruins of the TTT and the Red House in the aftermath of the 1990 attempted coup claimed to be Catholic.
In each of our penal institutions, there are scores of young men who identify as Catholic but are hard pressed to recall the last occasion they attended Holy Mass.
There can be no doubt that young men face more challenges today than people believe. They are becoming disinterested in finding work, finding a romantic partner, starting a family, and seeking out their passions and interests in life. Instead, they have become distracted, over-diagnosed, less educated than their female counterparts, and face unique psychological and physiological threats. There is a burning need for us, as Church, to recognise the importance of healthy, well-rounded men and their role in society, and do everything that is possible to help this current generation of young men regain its masculinity, its self-reliance, and its ability to give back to society.
Otherwise, the current situation young men face will only become more detrimental not only to them, but also to the rest of us, and could take generations to correct.
What hope then do we find in Simeon’s declaration of the role Jesus would play in the life of this world? Who are the Simeons of our Church, who are willing to speak life into the dead bones of our times, to resurrect for us the expectation that this generation of young men will be the hope for which we have prayed unceasingly?
As the world mourns the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and the others who perished in the helicopter crash, the accolades pour in for a man who was unafraid to declare that it was his Catholic faith and attendance at Holy Mass, that kept him alive during his dark moments of personal failure.
How many of our young men, languishing in prison cells, disrupting our Catholic schools, leading or participating in gang behaviour, have a Simeon who can speak life to them?
Matthew reports that “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favour of God was upon him.”
Sadly, the young men of today who do not feel the warmth of their village will burn it down as they search for it.
As Church, we must decide whether we will provide them with the matches to start the fire, or the blankets to protect them from the cold.