What is your message to the youth


(April 5, 2009)

"We have put our hope in the living God" (1 Tim 4,10)


Dear friend!

On the coming Palm Sunday we will celebrate the XXIV World Youth Day at the diocesan level. As we prepare for this annual celebration, I think back with deep gratitude to the Lord on the meeting that took place in Sydney in July last year: an unforgettable meeting where the Holy Spirit renewed the lives of many young people all over the world. The festive mood and spiritual enthusiasm that we experienced in those days were eloquent testimony to the presence of the Spirit of Christ. And now we are approaching the international meeting that will take place in Madrid in 2011, which will have the following words of Paul on the theme: "Remain rooted in Christ and founded on him, and hold fast to the faith" (cf. Col 2.7). While we have this international youth meeting in front of our eyes, let us go a path of preparation together and in 2009 reflect on the following words of the Apostle Paul: "We have put our hope in the living God" (1 Tim 4.10). In 2010 we will then occupy ourselves with the question that the rich young man Jesus asked: "Good Master, what must I do to gain eternal life?" (Mk 10,17).

The youth, a time of hope

In Sydney we turned our attention to what the Holy Spirit has to say today to believers and especially to you, dear young people. At the closing service I exhorted you to let him shape you to be ambassadors of God's love, capable of building a future of hope for all of humanity. The question of hope is, in truth, at the center of our human lives and our mission as Christians, especially in this day and age. We all feel the need for hope, not just any hope, but a firm and sure hope, as I did in the encyclical Spe salvi have emphasized. The youth is a time of hope in a special way because it looks to the future with many expectations. When you are young you have ideals and dreams, you make plans; youth is the time when decisions ripen that shape our whole life. And perhaps that is precisely why it is the phase of life in which fundamental existential questions arise: Why am I in the world? What is the meaning of my life? How will my life be? And finally, how can I be happy? Why is there suffering, sickness and death? What happens after death? Questions that come to mind when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles: difficulties in studying, no prospect of a job, misunderstanding in the family, problems in friendships or building a partnership, illness or disability, lack of the necessary income as a result of current general economic and social crisis. So one wonders: where should one get the flame of hope from, and what can one do to keep it from going out?

In search of the "great hope"

Experience shows that personal qualities and material goods are not enough to guarantee that hope for which the human heart is always looking. As I did in the encyclical already quoted Spe salvi I wrote, politics, science, technology, economics and other material resources alone cannot do this great hope give that we all long for. This hope "can only be God, who embraces the whole and who can give us what we alone cannot" (No. 31). This is also the reason why one of the main consequences of forgetting God is the disorientation that characterizes our society. A lack of orientation that leads to loneliness and violence, dissatisfaction and loss of confidence and often leads to despair. The words of God, who exhorted us, are clear and precise: “Cursed the man who trusts in people, leans on weak flesh, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a bare bush in the steppe that never sees rain coming «(Jer 17,5–6).

The crisis of hope mainly affects the new generations, who have to overcome difficulties that exceed their strength in a socio-cultural context without certainties, values ​​and fixed points of reference. I think, my dear young friends, of your many contemporaries who have been hurt by life and are marked by a personal immaturity, which is often the result of family emptiness, an overly relaxed upbringing without fixed rules and negative or traumatic experiences. For some, and unfortunately there are not a few, this almost inevitably leads to an alienation from reality into dangerous and violent behavior, into addiction to drugs and alcohol and many other forms of this widespread dissatisfaction among young people. And yet, even in those who have followed the advice of "bad teachers" and are therefore in a difficult position, the desire for true love and real happiness does not go away. But how should one proclaim hope to these young people? We know that man finds his true realization only in God. The main task that concerns us all is therefore a new evangelization that helps the new generation to discover the true face of God, which is love. To you, dear young people, who are looking for a sure hope, I address the same words that Paul addressed to the Christians who were persecuted in Rome at that time: “But the God of hope fill you with all joy and with all peace Faith that you may be rich in hope in the power of the Holy Spirit "(Rom 15.13). In this jubilee year, which is dedicated to the Apostle of the Nations on the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him to be credible witnesses of Christian hope.

Paul, witness of hope

Faced with numerous difficulties and trials, Paul wrote to his faithful disciple Timothy: "We have put our hope in the living God" (Gen. Tm 4.10). How was this hope awakened in him? In order to be able to answer these questions, we must start from his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul was a youth like you then, maybe twenty or twenty-five years old. He was a follower of the Mosaic Law and raged against all those whom he believed to be enemies of God (cf. Acts 9.1). As he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the disciples of Christ, he was blinded by a mysterious light and heard a voice say to him: "Saul, Saul, why are you following me?" He fell to the ground and asked: "Who are you, Lord?" And the voice answered: "I am Jesus, whom you persecute" (cf. Acts 9.3-5). This encounter radically changed Paul's life: he received baptism and became an apostle of the gospel. On the way to Damascus he was inwardly transformed by the love of God, which he had met in the person of Jesus. Later he was to write: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. But as far as I still live in this world, I live in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me "(Gal 2.20). From the persecutor he became a witness and missionary; he founded Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece, covered thousands of kilometers and endured all kinds of trials, up to and including martyrdom in Rome. Everything out of love for Christ.

The great hope lies in Christ

For Paul, hope is not just an ideal or a feeling, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Filled with this certainty, he can also write to Timothy: "We have put our hope in the living God" (Gen. Tim 4.10). The "living God" is Christ, who is risen and present in the world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and calls us to partake in his eternal life. If we are not alone, if He is with us, if He is our presence and our hope, then why should we be afraid? The Christian's hope is that "through which we long for the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, trusting in the promises of Christ and relying not on our strength but on the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).

On the way to great hope

Just as he once met the young Paul, so Jesus wants to meet each of you, dear young people. Yes, even before this encounter is your wish, it is the heartfelt wish of Christ. Now of course you could ask me: How can I meet him today? Or rather: how does he approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to meet the Lord is already the fruit of His grace. If we express our faith in prayer, then we meet him already in the dark because he offers himself to us. Constant prayer opens the heart to receive it, as Augustine explains: “The Lord our God wants our desires to be proved in prayer. In this way he prepares us to receive what he is inclined to give us "(Letters 130,8,17). Prayer is a gift of the Holy Spirit who makes us men and women of hope, and prayer makes us keep the world open to God (cf. Spe salvi, 34).

Make room for prayer in your life! Prayer alone is good, but it is even more beautiful and profitable to pray together, because the Lord said that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is among them (cf. Mt 18.20). There are many ways to become familiar with it; there are experiences, groups and movements, encounters and ways to learn to pray and thus to grow in the experience of faith. Take part in the liturgy in your parishes and strengthen yourself in the word of God and in active participation in the sacraments. As you know, the culmination and center of the existence and mission of every believer and every Christian community is the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation, in which Christ is present and offers us his body and blood as spiritual food for eternal life. A truly unspeakable secret! It is around the Eucharist that the Church arises and grows, the great family of Christians, which one enters through Baptism and in which one is constantly renewed thanks to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The baptized are then strengthened by Confirmation of the Holy Spirit to live as true friends and witnesses of Christ; the sacraments of ordination and marriage, on the other hand, enable them to carry out their apostolic tasks in the Church and in the world. Finally, the anointing of the sick allows us to experience divine comfort in sickness and suffering.

Acting in accordance with Christian hope

If you nourish yourselves on Christ, dear young people, and live in him like Paul, you will not be able to avoid speaking of him and bringing him close to many of your friends and contemporaries, teaching them to love him. If you have become his faithful disciples, you will be able to contribute to the establishment of Christian communities that are as permeated with love as those of which the book of Acts of the Apostles reported. The Church is counting on you for this demanding task. Be patient and persistent and do not give in to the tendency typical of youth to want everything now and immediately.

Dear friends, bear witness to the risen Christ like Paul! Bring it close to all your peers, all adults, who are looking for the "great hope" that will give their life meaning. If Jesus has become your hope, then through your joy, through your spiritual, apostolic and social commitment, let the others know as well. When you have been moved by Christ, put your faith in him and put all your trust in him, then spread that hope around you. Make choices that express your beliefs; shows that you have recognized the dangers of the idolatry of money, material goods, the pursuit of career and success, and do not allow yourself to be seduced by these illusions. Do not give in to the logic of egoistic interests, but practice charity and strive to put yourself and your human and professional abilities in the service of the common good and truth, always ready to “answer any question who asks about hope that fills you "(1 Petr 3.15). The true Christian is never sad, even when faced with trials of various kinds. Indeed, the presence of Jesus is the secret of his joy and peace.

Mary, mother of hope

St. To be Paul, who nourished his life with constant faith and constant hope, following the example of Abraham, about whom he writes in the letter to the Romans: "Against all hope he believed with hope that he would become the father of many peoples" (Rom 4.18). In these footsteps of the people of hope - consisting of the prophets and saints of all times - we continue to walk towards the realization of the kingdom of God, and the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope, accompanies us on our spiritual journey. She, the embodiment of the hope of Israel, who gave the world the Redeemer and persevered undeterred in hope under the cross, is our example and support. Above all, however, Mary is our intercessor, who leads us from the darkness of our difficulties to the glowing dawn to the encounter with the risen One. Dear young people, I would like to share my message with a beautiful and well-known invitation from St. Bernhard conclude that from the Marientitel »Stella maris - Sea star "was inspired:" You, who are aware of being tossed to and fro by storms more than walking on solid ground in the constant uncertainty of life, fix your gaze firmly on this shining star if you do not want to for the hurricanes to sweep you away. When temptation storms rise, you are in the midst of the cliffs of tribulation, look up to the star of the sea, call Mary for help! Are you thrown back and forth on the waves of pride, ambition, slander, envy, look at the star, call Maria ... In the midst of dangers, hardships and insecurities, think of Maria, call Maria ... Follow her, then you will you don't get lost. Call her, then you cannot despair, think of her, then you are not mistaken. If she holds you tight, you cannot fall. If she protects you, then fear nothing! If she guides you, you won't get tired. If she is gracious to you, then you will reach your destination safely! «(In laudibus Virginis Matris, Homilia 2,17).

Mary, you star of the sea, lead the young people of the whole world to encounter your divine Son Jesus and be the heavenly guardian of their fidelity to the Gospel and their hope.

Dear young people, by assuring each one of you of my daily remembrance in prayer, I warmly impart my blessing to you and to all people who are dear to you.

From the Vatican, February 22, 2009