Pope Benedict XVI released his message for the 25th World Youth Day celebration on Monday. He invites the young people of the world to realize their vocations and, instead of turning away disappointed as the young rich man in Mark's Gospel, to follow Jesus with courage.
Calling the World Youth Day initiative begun by Pope John Paul II "prophetic," the Holy Father writes that the events have reaped "abundant fruits, permitting the new Christian generations to come together, listen to the Word of God, discover the beauty of the Church and live strong experiences of faith that have brought many to the decision of giving themselves totally to Christ."
This year's celebration, which will take place on a diocesan level, is a "stage" on the path to WYD 2011 in Madrid, indicates the Pope, who says he hopes for a good turnout for the upcoming "event of grace."
To prepare for the celebration, the Benedict XVI reflects on this year's theme: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" This, writes the Pope, presents the episode of Jesus' encounter with the rich young man which Pope John Paul II presented in his inaugural letter for the first World Youth Day in 1985.
Benedict XVI revisits John Paul II's original "beautiful" letter for this year's message, which he divides into seven points. Significant portions of Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 World Youth Day Message are presented below.
1. Jesus encounters the young man
The story from Mark's gospel of the young rich man who is disappointed when he is asked to sell everything and follow Christ, writes the Holy Father to youth, "effectively expresses the great attention of Jesus towards young people, towards you, towards your expectations, your hopes, and shows how great is his desire to meet with you personally and open a dialogue with each one of you."
"With this passage, my Predecessor wanted to exhort each of you to 'develop a personal conversation with Christ - a conversation that is of fundamental importance and essential for young people.'"
2. Jesus looked at him and loved him
"The heart of this very special encounter and the whole Christian experience" is in the Lord's gaze, writes Pope Benedict. In the personal love of Jesus Christ, "young or old, rich or poor; he loves us even when we turn our backs on him."
John Paul II wrote to youth in his message, "I hope you experience a look like that! I hope you experience the truth that he, the Christ, looks at you with love."
Pope Benedict adds John Paul II's words, "The knowledge that the Father has always loved us in his Son, that the Christ loves each one of us always becomes a firm point of support for all of our human existence.
"In this love," proposes Pope Benedict, "we find the source of all of the Christian life and the fundamental reason for evangelization: if we have truly found Jesus, we cannot help but witness him to those who have not encountered his look."
3. The discovery of the project of life
Pope Benedict writes that the situation facing the young man in the Gospel is one that faces all youth, "the season of life that you are immersed in is a time of discovery: of the gifts that God has lavished upon you and of your responsibilities. It is, moreover, a time of fundamental choices to build your 'project of life.'"
The Pope urges youth not to be fearful in answering the question: "What must I do, so that my life might have full value and full meaning?"
"To discover the 'project of life' that can make you plainly happy, start listening to God, who has a design of love for each of you," writes the Pope. "With trust, ask him: "Lord, what is your design of Creator and Father of my life? What is your will? I wish to complete it.
"Be sure that he will respond. Don't be fearful of his reply!"
4. Come and follow me!
"The Christian vocation springs from a proposal of love from the Lord and can be realized only thanks to a response of love," writes Benedict XVI, adding that, "The saints welcome this demanding invitation."
The Holy Father calls youth to welcome "joyfully" their vocations, "to live intensely and fruitfully in this world."
The young, rich man "unfortunately, does not welcome the invitation of Jesus and he leaves saddened," points out the Pope. "He did not find the courage to separate himself from material goods to find the greater good proposed by Jesus.
His sadness "is that which is born in the heart of each person when he does not have the courage to follow Christ, to carry out the right choice. But it's never too late to answer him!"
The Year for Priests highlights the Lord's "radical choice" of some for the vocation of the priesthood, religious and missionary life, writes the Pope. "Do not be afraid" ... because "He knows how to give profound joy to he who responds with courage," the Holy Father encourages young people.
The Pope also invites those called to married life to "welcome it with faith, working hard to establish a solid base to live a great love, faithful and open to the gift of life ... "
5. Oriented towards eternal life
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" is a question that comes up in "particular painful moments of existence" when we experience death or failure, relates the Pope in the message.
He assures the youth that "Asking ourselves about the definitive future that awaits each of us gives full meaning to our existence, since it orients the 'project of life' not towards limited and passing, but broad and deep horizons that bring us to love the world ... to dedicate ourselves to His development, but always with the freedom and the joy that are born of faith and hope. They are horizons that help to put the earthly reality in absolute terms, feeling that God is preparing us for a bigger perspective ..."
The Pope concludes his thought with an exhortation to the youth not to forget "this prospect in your project of life: we are called to eternity. God has created us to be with Him forever.
"He will help you to give a full sense to your choices and give quality to your existence."
6. The commandments, way of true love
As Jesus reminds the young man, the commandments are "essential points of reference for living in love, for distinguishing clearly the good from the bad and building a solid and lasting project of life," the Pope writes. "Also to you, Jesus asks if you know the Commandments, if you work to form your consciences according to the divine law and if you put them in practice."
"This goes against today's mentality that proposes a freedom unrelated to values, rules, objective norms and invites denial of every limit to the desires of the moment," points out Pope Benedict. "But this type of proposal," he observes, "instead of leading to true freedom, makes man a slave to himself, to his immediate desires, to idols as power, money, unbridled pleasure and the seductions of the world, making him incapable of following his native vocation to love."
The commandments were given to us because God "wants to educate us in true liberty, because he wants to build with us a Kingdom of love, of justice and of peace."
"Listening to them and putting them in practice doesn't mean alienating onesself, but finding a path of freedom and of true love, because the commandments don't limit happiness, but indicate how to find it. Jesus at the beginning of the dialogue with the young rich man, reminds him that the law given by God is good, because 'God is good,'" writes the Pope.
7. We need you
Young people today might find themselves in a difficult situation marked by a lack of employment opportunities, ideal references or concrete prospects for the future, the Pope observes. Despite the difficulty or feelings of impotence, "do not let yourselves be discouraged and do not give up your dreams!"
"Instead, cultivate in your hearts great desires for fraternity, justice and peace.
"The future is in the hands of those who know how to seek and find strong reasons for life and hope. If you want it, the future is in your hands, because the gifts and the riches that the Lord has closed in the heart of each of you, molded by the encounter with Christ, can bring back true hope to the world!" says the Pope.
It is the faith in his love that, making you strong and generous, will give you the courage to confront with serenity the path of life and assume family and professional responsibilities. Work to build your future through serious routes of personal formation and study, to serve the common good in a competent and generous way.
The Holy Father includes the challenges that young people are called to respond to today to build a more just and fraternal world: "the use of the resources of the earth and respect for ecology, the just division of goods and the control of financial mechanisms, solidarity with the poor countries within the human family, the fight against hunger in the world, the promotion of the dignity of human work, service to the culture of life, the construction of peace between nations, interreligious dialogue, the good use of means of social communication."
"These are challenges that ask for a demanding and exciting project of life, in which to put all of your riches according to the design that God has for each of you," the Pope explains.
This "isn't about carrying out heroic or extraordinary gestures, but of acting by putting in fruit our own talents and possibilities, committing oneself to progress constantly in faith and love."
Pope Benedict XVI concludes the letter by inviting everyone to learn about the lives of the saints, particularly those who are priests in this special year that honors them.
Through their lives, we can see God's guidance and their experience of finding their way "day after day, in faith, hope and love.
"Christ calls each of you to work with Him and to assume your responsibilities to build a civilization of love. If you follow his Word, your way will also be illuminated and it will lead you to high goals, that give joy and full meaning to life."
The message concludes with the prayer, "May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany you with her protection" and the Pope's assurance of his prayers and blessing "with great affection."
This year's World Youth Day will be celebrated on a diocesan level on Palm Sunday, March 28.