Messages for World Youth Days
.. God's mercy is very concrete and we are all called to experience it at firsthand. At the age of seventeen, one day when I had to go out with friends, I decided to pass by a church first. There I encountered a priest who inspired in me a special trust, in such a way that I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That encounter changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can in a very concrete way contemplate God's mercy. I had the certainty that in the person of that priest God was waiting for me, before I had taken the first step to go into that church. We seek him, but it is He who always goes before us, for he has always been seeking us, and is the first to encounter us. Perhaps some of you have a weight on your heart and are thinking: I have done this, I have done that.... Do not be afraid! He is waiting for you! He is the father: he is always awaiting us! How beautiful it is to encounter in the sacrament of Reconciliation the merciful embrace of the Father, to discover the confessional as the place of Mercy, let us be touched by this merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us!
And you, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt this gaze of infinite love upon you which, beyond all your sins, limitations and failures, continues trusting in you and gazing upon your existence with hope? Are you aware of the value that you have before God who for love has given you everything? As St Paul teaches us “the proof that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom 5, 8). But do we really understand the power of these words?
The most precious good that we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Are you aware of the inestimable value that you have in the eyes of God? Do you know that He appreciates you and loves you unconditionally? When this perception disappears, the human being becomes an incomprehensible enigma, because it is precisely the knowledge of being loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Remember Jesus' conversation with the rich young man (cf Mk 10, 17-22)? The evangelist Mark says that Jesus gazed upon him with affection, and then invited him to follow him so as to find the true treasure. Dear young people, I wish that this gaze of Christ, full of love, accompanies you throughout your whole life.
Youth is a period in which emerges the great affective wealth in your hearts, the profound desire for a love that is true, beautiful and great. How much energy is in this capacity to love and be loved! Do not allow this most precious value to be falsified, destroyed or defaced. This happens when our relationships are marked by the instrumentalization of one's neighbour for ones own selfish ends, sometimes as mere objects of pleasure. The heart is wounded and sad following these negative experiences. I beg you: do not be afraid of true love, the one that Jesus teaches us and that Saint Paul describes thus “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous, it does not boast, it is not puffed up with pride, it is not rude or selfish, it is not angry, nor does it take into account a wrong suffered; it is not glad in injustice but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love will never end.” (1 Cor 13, 4-8).
While inviting you to discover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to trivialize love, above all when it seeks to reduce love only to its sexual aspect, thus depriving it of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young people, “in a culture of the provisional, of the relative, many preach that the important thing is 'to enjoy' the moment, that it is not worth committing oneself for the whole of life, making definitive choices, ‘forever’, because one does not know what will happen tomorrow. I, however, ask you to be revolutionaries, I ask you to go against the current; yes, in this I ask you to rebel against this culture of the provisional, which, at its base, believes that you are not capable of assuming responsibility, believes that you are not capable of loving truly. I have confidence in you, young people, and I pray for you. Dare to go against the current. And dare also to be happy” (Meeting with the volunteers at WYD Rio, 28 July 2013). ...
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8). Dear young people, as you see, this Beatitude touches very closely your existence and is a guarantee of your happiness. Hence I repeat to you once more: have the courage to be happy!
In proclaiming the Beatitudes Jesus invites us to follow him, to walk with Him the way of love, the only one that leads to eternal life. It is not an easy road, yet the Lord assures us of his grace and he never leaves us on our own. Present in our lives are poverty, distress, humiliation, the fight for justice, the fatigue of daily conversion, the struggle to live the call to holiness, persecutions and so many other challenges. But if we open the door to Jesus, if we allow Him to enter into our history, if we share with Him our joys and sorrows, we will experience a peace and a joy that only God, infinite love, can give.
.. Jesus calls upon us, dear young people, to respond to his proposal of life, to decide which road we want to walk so as to arrive at true joy. It concerns a great challenge of faith. Jesus was not afraid to ask his disciples if they wanted really to follow him or rather to go by other ways (cf Jn 6, 67). And Simon Peter had the courage to reply: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6, 68). If you also know to say “yes” to Jesus, your young lives will be full of meaning and thus will be fruitful.
I desire first of all to renew my invitation to you to participate in this important event. The famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, which overlooks this beautiful Brazilian city, will be the eloquent symbol: his open arms are a sign of the welcome that the Lord will reserve for all those who will come to Him and his heart depicts the immense love that He has for each and every one of you. Let yourselves be attracted by Him! Live this experience of encounter with Christ, together with so many other young people who will converge on Rio for the next World Youth Day! Let yourselves be loved by Him and you will be the witnesses the world needs.
I invite you to prepare for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by meditating from now on upon the theme of the meeting: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf Mt 28:19). This is the great missionary exhortation which Christ left to the whole Church and which remains actual still today, 2000 years later. Now this mandate must resonate with force in your hearts. The year of preparation for the gathering in Rio coincides with the Year of Faith, at the beginning of which the Synod of Bishops dedicated their work to 'The New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian Faith'. So I am happy that you too, dear young people, are involved in this missionary outreach of the whole Church: to make Christ known is the most precious gift that you can make for others.
As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I too want to confirm you in the faith. We firmly believe that Jesus Christ offered himself on the Cross in order to give us his love. In his passion, he bore our sufferings, took upon himself our sins, obtained forgiveness for us and reconciled us with God the Father, opening for us the way to eternal life. Thus we were freed from the thing that most encumbers our lives: the slavery of sin. We can love everyone, even our enemies, and we can share this love with the poorest of our brothers and sisters and all those in difficulty.
Dear friends, the Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true! It is God’s “yes” to mankind, the supreme expression of his love and the source from which eternal life flows. Indeed, it is from Jesus’ heart, pierced on the Cross, that this divine life streamed forth, ever accessible to those who raise their eyes towards the Crucified One. I can only urge you, then, to embrace the Cross of Jesus, the sign of God’s love, as the source of new life. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.
25th WYD 2010 - "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
24th WYD 2009 - "We have set our hope on the living God"
23rd WYD 2008 - "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses"
22nd WYD 2007 - "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another"
21st WYD 2006 - "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path"
20th WYD 2005 - "We have come to worship Him"
19th WYD 2004 - "We wish to see Jesus"
18th WYD 2003 - "Behold, your mother!"
17th WYD 2002 - "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world"
16th WYD 2001 - “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”
15th WYD Jubilee 2000 - “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”
14th WYD 1999 - “The Father loves you”
13th WYD 1998 - “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things”
12th WYD 1997 - “Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see.”
11th WYD 1996 - “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”
10th & 9th WYD 1995/4 - “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”
8th WYD 1993 - “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full”
7th WYD 1992 - “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel”
6th WYD 1991 - “You have received the spirit of sonship”
5th WYD 1990 - “I am the vine, you are the branches”
4th WYD 1989 - “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”
3rd WYD 1988 - “Do whatever he tells you”
2nd WYD 1987 - “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.”
1st WYD 1986 - “Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”