Ready to listen, prepared to respond, words about World Youth Day
During the unforgettable welcoming encounter during World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, John Paul II asked the young people: “What have you come here to find? Who have you come here to find?” These were the ardent words of a man advanced in years but who loved with a youthful heart and who was capable of enkindling other young people with love for Christ. The World Youth Day has always drawn young people from all over the world who come to see the Pope, in search of Christ. This personal encounter with our Lord is the source of many marvelous benefits for the life of each one involved, and also for the life of the whole Church and of society.
Upon inaugurating his pontificate, Benedict XVI proclaimed that the Church is young, that the Church is alive. The Church is alive, he said, because Christ is alive. The “great” story of the Church is determined by the “personal” stories of friendship with Jesus. “Only in this friendship,” the Pope tells us, “are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.” We are going to Cologne with the hope of once more savoring the perennial youth of the Church, which is maintained thanks to friendship with Jesus. In the women and men of today, and especially in the youth, there is a great thirst for hope, dreams of happiness, an eagerness for meaning, a longing to find something it is worthwhile giving one’s life for. And at the same time one sees doubts, rebellion against injustice, awareness of one’s own weakness, and at times fear. These are yearnings that find their answer in Christ, and shadows that vanish in his light.
The Church guards in her heart the future of the world, as Benedict XVI also stressed at the beginning of his Pontificate. The future has a direct relationship with young people. The projection of the Church in space and in time depends to a great extent on the generosity of young people. They are the carriers of Christ’s message to their own generation and to the generations to come. They have to spread the seed of charity, the seed of chastity, which is an expression of authentic love. When the world seems to be distancing itself more and more from God, we need to realize that the world needs God more than ever: today, more than ever, the world needs the joy of young disciples of Christ. The Pope has granted the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence to those who take part in this encounter. He is thus reminding us that personal friendship with Jesus, which is the font of joy, passes through the sacraments: Christ who pardons us in Confession and Christ who gives himself to us in the Eucharist.
The Sacrifice of the Altar is the center and theme of this World Youth Day, and of this entire year. The catechesis preceding the arrival of the Holy Father, the Saturday Vigil and the Mass on Sunday, all revolve around the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Pope has set as the theme for this encounter: “We have come to adore you,” as the Magi on their way to Bethlehem. I pray that all who take part in this gathering in Cologne may undergo a conversion, and first of all myself. We have to be convinced that it is always possible to convert anew, to transform our hearts. We have to feel the urgency of following Jesus closely, “in accordance with the vocation that God has indicated to each one” (Decree on Indulgences granted on the occasion of the 20th WYD, August 8, 2005).
God’s call resounds in one’s soul as an intimate and personal reality. And our response also has repercussions on those around us, on the society to which we belong. Saying yes to God means making our life one of service, putting ourselves at the disposition of others. Perhaps we will have to overcome a certain natural fear, which all of us experience in the face of great and binding decisions. “Be not afraid!” In these words of Christ, repeated by our beloved John Paul II, we find the daring that we need. Benedict XVI echoed them right from the first day: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. Christ gives everything and takes away nothing. It is worthwhile to confront this beautiful divine and human adventure.”
Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei