Making Their Mark: Interview with Gloria Luna, Social Advocate
Sojourners' June issue features a cover story by Amy Green and a column by Jim Wallis about the new paths of young Christians, plus a set of mini-interviews with 10 next-gen Christian leaders. Here's a taste: part of Sojourners' interview with Gloria Luna, the 28-year-old director of the Office of Social Advocacy for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida.
Sojourners: What's the biggest challenge you see facing young Christians now? In the years to come?
Luna: While there are many signs of hope, young Christians are in the thick of a culture of individualism, consumerism, lack of reconciliation, and violence. The idea that individually we must struggle, work, and survive is deeply ingrained in our communities. My experience has been that this radical individualism is what weighs most heavily on the human soul, that we cannot count on our neighbors to care for us when we are in trouble, because there just simply is too much competition and not enough time to care for ourselves, much less anyone else.
Also, young people live in a "zero tolerance" culture; if you mess up, your mistakes are often held against you with little hope of reconciliation. As one of my pastoral ministry professors at St. Thomas said, "We talk about reconciliation, but there are young people in this community who have never experienced forgiveness." This type of culture puts a lot of pressure on young people.
What one thing would you most like to tell Christians?
Jesus' life was about crossing borders and bringing loving compassion to the marginalized. The feeling we get when we see the elderly struggling to work just to be able to keep up with bills, the anger we feel when we hear an arthritis-stricken veteran pleading with someone on the phone to please extend his housing assistance, the tug at our souls to stop and talk to a homeless woman on the side of the road, that which compels us to give money to the poor, the pain we feel when we see young men and women getting into drugs and violence, the deep compassion we experience when we hear of an immigrant's struggle across the ocean or through the dessert in order to provide for their families ...all of these and countless more are opportunities to experience Jesus.
God places in our paths countless opportunities for grace; we must pray for the courage to accept those graces by overcoming our hesitation to encounter the poor and marginalized with love.