This past weekend, I had the privilege of joining the youth group from Good Shepherd at the Steubenville Mid-America Youth Conference in Springfield, MO (hosted by the Archdiocese of St. Louis). To go to these conferences is, for me, always a sort of homecoming. Not just because I often run into friends from different parishes and ministries, but because the call to the priesthood was significantly influenced by these weekends while I was working at the Office of Youth Ministry.

Every year the conference has a theme. This year’s is ‘Belong’. The talks and music all invited the partici-pants to understand and live this more deeply. Just look at the talk titles: ‘Called to Belong’, ‘Belonging to-gether: Family Ties’, ‘Belonging to Christ our Hope,’ ‘Belonging to Christ and His Church,’ ‘Belonging to the Body of Christ.’

In the opening talk, the speaker asked the question: how much does God want you to belong? He invited us to meet Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, who shows us just how much, from the perspective of the Father’s heart, that we belong. We belong enough for the Father to make us, even though he didn’t need to. We be-long enough for the Father to show us mercy, even when we reject him. We belong enough for the Father to send his Son: to be like us in all ways but sin; to experience our life with us, in all of its glories and suffering; to speak truth to us and remind us of our great dignity; to reach into our poverty (especially that of the heart) and bring healing, encouragement and hope; and to offer his life for us on the Cross. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Or, to sum it up in the words of the speaker: “To God the Father, you are worth God the Son.”

Do you believe this? If you struggle, talk to Jesus about it. He desires to bring you home!

Fr. Buehler