Monday, November 07, 2011

“Thank God It’s Friday”: A Weekend Spirituality

There has been for some time now an activity of the youth in the Cathedral Parish of Tagbilaran that has particularly caught my attention. It is the jamming session that they put up every last Friday of the month. It is curious because they hold it in the Cathedral square just in front of the Bishop’s residence, a place set aside for many other religious and social activities but not for this kind of program. It is just too secular, too mundane to merit the place for their merry making. We know that the activities that have sprung up from this jovial creation of the young to take it easy on a weekend are light merry making, a celebration of being released from the tension of so much work in the classrooms, the school activities, home works and other related assignments. There is nothing objectionable to be at ease on a Friday, to relax, to unwind, to shake oneself off from the drudgery of the classroom. To say “Thank God it’s Friday” means to throw the books away and hit the bar, disco or movie houses, to take out the latest video games, pore nonstop into internet surfing, to sing, to dance, to celebrate. All these are activities that are spontaneous and natural to the young of today. They need them so they say, for they need to be recharged and to ease up for their sanity’s sake. On the other hand, they could easily go awry, resorting for example to heavy alcohol drinking, or, to the taking of drugs, that could in time drive them to violent acts, untoward incidents, even sexual revelry. These latter apprehensions may sound prudish, but definitely not unfounded. Hence, the question remains: are our youth jamming their hearts out in the Cathedral ground on a weekend doing things improper?

A cursory look into the matter at bar, however, has brought me to a happy disclosure. Our young have found in this activity Jesus Christ as the source of their joy. For sure, they too are young and need the relaxation of their body and their emotions, they want to remain sane in the midst of so much work in the classrooms and at home, they like all the other kids around are searching for a place to unwind, just to be at ease, and they find it in the cathedral parish program called “Thank God It’s Friday” - TGIF. The songs, the percussions, the inputs, the dramatization of the characters of the Bible, the catechetical teaching consciously done in active dialogue with the listeners, the singing, the cadenced clapping of hands and the rhythmic stomping of feet on the ground, and the smooth swaying of the bodies in response to the discoveries and new insights of the Word proclaimed, the spontaneous reaction and the interpersonal communications that came out of it, the whole atmosphere is soaked not only with the message of Jesus but also with His person encountered somehow along the whole celebration. TGIF has its way of transforming everything and everyone into a prayer, urging each one to make that attempt, tentative sometimes it may be, to reach out to Jesus who once had made this avowal: “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete... It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another” (Jn:15: 11; 16-17).

TGIF, however, is not finished with that temporary joy. Its creativity lies in the follow up that is done in the Facebook. The organizers instructed the participants to always check their Facebook for the insightful questions and thought provoking queries regarding the TGIF experiences. It is surprising to note that the youth eagerly access this part of their computer to react to the posted questions and queries. This forms an essential part of the TGIF activity. The responses of the youth participants are encouraging to the organizers of the TGIF. Judging from the responses, they know that the Good News have again been proclaimed, no matter the unorthodox way that it is being done.

Joy is a state we all seek. A drab world is a place not worth living in. Our young, having a claim to that joy, is however exposed to the world of virtual realities created by the computer set; action pact pictures and other marvellous illusions in video games marvellously displayed in the monitor; the ephemeral things of the tube and the movies, the thrill, the glitz and sheer excitement of the entertainment world. Everything is virtual, passing illusions, good for the here and now. Nothing is absolute anymore; everything is ephemeral, passing shadows, to stimulate and to tease the heart of the young hungry for thrills in life but cannot fully satisfy the deep longing of his young and adventurous soul. For the spirit of man is made for the absolute; his purpose goes beyond himself. He is made for the eternal good, the summum bonum, endowed with that power to reach out for the Truth that is clothed in pure Beauty, ever ancient and ever new. Such is human nature that deprived of that, he remains for ever a restless being. It is along this line that a French philosopher of our age observed that a man exposed to an empty world eventually withdraws into himself; his action is no longer perceived as a gift of self but an uninhibited seeking of personal satisfaction in the fear of losing something (cf. Nault: “Acedia: Enemy of Spiritual Joy”, 2006). Man becomes a living dead.

TGIF is a youth program that aims “to provide an alternative experience of fun, freedom, fellowship, and catechesis.” It tries to reach our youth to tell them that life is worth living, that God is truly concerned about him, knows him, loves him, watches over him, and is close to him; that joy is just around the corner. Jesus Christ is there too on a weekend.


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