After a school Mass, a young girl walked up and asked me point-blank: "Father, who should I believe in more: God or myself?" With hesitating I said, "Definitely God, because we can fool ourselves." She paused for a moment, said "Thank you," and quietly walked away. I have a feeling that she found my answer less than convincing.
Young people today are told over and over again that they need to believe in themselves. Popular books, movies, and TV shows encourage young people to resist peer pressure so they can be themselves with confidence, because everyone is unique and special. And that’s a good message: we should want young people to love themselves and approach adulthood with a healthy confidence. What we don’t want is for them to believe or trust in themselves more than they believe or trust in God.
Today we celebrate the life of a saint, Therese of Lisieux, who would certainly tell young people that they’re unique and special. "Our Lord takes a special interest in each soul," she said, "as if there were no other like it." She would also tell young people to be themselves with confidence. "Perfection," she wrote, "consists simply in…being just what (God) wants us to be." But you’ll note that all her advice springs from her belief in God: We’re special, because God made us special; we can be true to ourselves, when we’re true to what God wants for us.
And that’s a message that everyone needs to hear today, both young and old. St. Therese says: Be yourself by believing in God, who loves you, just for being you.