VATICAN CITY —While the idea of being “forever young” can seem appealing, the underdevelopment of morality is a problem in developed nations, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told the Synod of Bishops Thursday.

The answer to this problem is Christ, whom the Church must present more strongly and confidently to young people, he noted in his second intervention (talk) to the assembly Oct. 4.

He spoke during the 15th ordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops, which is on the topic of “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

At the beginning of his intervention, Archbishop Chaput recalled the words of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass that day, in which the Pope referred to Christ as “eternally young.”

“When I heard this, it reminded me of a song by the artist Jay-Z that was popular a few years ago,” Archbishop Chaput said. “The song was entitled Forever Young, and it was a remake of a popular tune by the German group Alphaville from the 1980s. Jay-Z sang for the young — and for all of us — ‘I want to live forever and be forever young.’”

The image of Christ as “eternally young” is “not only beautiful, but powerful,” Archbishop Chaput said, because he is “alive and vigorous and constantly offering his disciples an abundant new life.”

But Christ did not remain a youth, but matured into a man “of courage, self-mastery and mercy, guided by justice and truth. He was a teacher both tender and forceful; understanding and patient — but also very clear about the kind of human choices and actions that would lead to God and the kind that would not,” he said.

Unfortunately, the archbishop noted, many “developed” countries today are actually “underdeveloped in their humanity. They’re frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose upon others.”

“The instrumentum (working document) does a good job of exploring the roots of that underdevelopment and the challenges to young people that flow from it,” Chaput said.

“But it needs to be much stronger and more confident in presenting God’s word and the Person of Jesus Christ as the only path to a full and joyful humanity. And it needs to do this much earlier in the text.”


The full text of Archbishop Chaput’s second intervention is below:

Brothers,

In his opening Mass homily, the Holy Father described Jesus as “eternally young.” When I heard this, it reminded me of a song by the artist Jay-Z that was popular a few years ago. The song was entitled Forever Young, and it was a remake of a popular tune by the German group Alphaville from the 1980s. Jay-Z sang for the young — and for all of us — “I want to live forever and be forever young.”

The image of Jesus as “eternally young” is not only beautiful, but powerful. As we deal with the many outside pressures on the Church today and the problems we also face within our believing community, we need to remember that Jesus is alive and vigorous and constantly offering his disciples an abundant new life. Thank you, Holy Father, for reminding us of that.

Of course, the Jesus who came into the world as an infant did not end his mission as a youth. He matured into an adult man of courage, self-mastery and mercy, guided by justice and truth. He was a teacher both tender and forceful; understanding and patient — but also very clear about the kind of human choices and actions that would lead to God and the kind that would not.

The wealthy societies of today’s world that style themselves as “developed” — including most notably my own — are in fact underdeveloped in their humanity. They’re frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose upon others.

The instrumentum does a good job of exploring the roots of that underdevelopment and the challenges to young people that flow from it. But it needs to be much stronger and more confident in presenting God’s word and the person of Jesus Christ as the only path to a full and joyful humanity. And it needs to do this much earlier in the text.