.- Pope Benedict XVI will challenge young Catholics to be âmissionaries of joyâ in his message for this Sundayâs World Youth Day.
âBe enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow,â says the Pope in his address, the text of which was issued to the media on March 27.
âBring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious.â
The Popeâs letter marks the Churchâs 27th World Youth Day, which will be celebrated in 2012 at the diocesan level. The theme for this year is taken from Saint Paulâs exhortation to the Philippians: âRejoice in the Lord always.â
âJoy is at the heart of Christian experience,â writes the Pope, âin a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith.â
He then explains how young people can find joy, experience it more deeply and transmit it to others.
The Pope points out that âa yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and womanâ and that this is more than just âimmediate and fleeting feelings of satisfactionâ but a longing for âa perfect, full and lasting joy capable of giving âflavorâ to our existence.â
This instinct is particularly true during youth, a time that Pope Benedict characterizes as one of âcontinuous discovery of life, of the world, of others and of ourselves.â It is a stage in life when âwe are moved by high ideals and make great plans.â
But to find what gives âreal and lasting joyâ people must seek God, the Pope says, explaining that this is because God is âa communion of eternal loveâ and his infinite joy âdoes not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love him.â
For this reason, God wants each young person to âshare in his own divine and eternal joyâ since the âdeepest meaning and valueâ of their lives lies in âbeing accepted, welcomed and loved by him.â
And Godâs unconditional love allows young people to say âI am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive.â
Pope Benedict then cites the Incarnation, Jesus visiting Zacchaeusâ house, and the Resurrection as times when people encountered Jesus and experienced âimmense inner joy.â
These instances, he says, should reminds us that âevil does not have the final word in our livesâ and that âfaith in Christ the Savior tells us that Godâs love is victorious.â
The Pope goes on to urge young people to respond to âspiritual joyâ by not being afraid to risk their lives and by making âspace for Jesus Christ and his Gospel.â
This is particularly true, he says, if Christ is âcalling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood,â since Jesus âfills with joy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with himâ and âdevote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others.â
After experiencing the joy Jesus brings, everyone is called to love others, the Pope says.
âJoy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more,â he writes, quoting Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
For a young person, this love should inform all aspects of their life so that they learn how love âmeans to be steadfast, reliable and faithful in commitmentsâ particularly in work, study and friendships.
âOur friends expect us to be sincere, loyal and faithful because true love perseveres even in times of difficulty,â he notes.
The Pope also prays that young people will lead lives âguided by a spirit of service and not by the pursuit of power, material success and money.â
The temptation away from this is a present-day culture which often âpressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures,â fostering âfickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments.â This, he says, is nothing more than the promise of âfalse happiness.â
âHow many people are surrounded by material possessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness and emptiness! To have lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God.â
This higher path, he warns, will not be without its occasional falls as âthe experience of sin, which is a refusal to follow God and an affront to his friendship, brings gloom into our hearts.â
Yet God in his mercy ânever abandons usâ and always offers the possibility of âbeing reconciled with him and experiencing the joy of his love which forgives and welcomes us back.â
âDear young people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered,â the Pope says.
He brings his message to the youth to a close by offering some models of youthful holiness for them to emulate. First among them is the early 20th-century Italian student Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Despite experiencing âmany trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that left him deeply hurt,â explains the Pope, Pier Giorgio always found the Christian life a joy, âeven when it involves pain.â
This experience of joy and pain is why itâs an unfair and untrue to depict Christianity as âa way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy,â Pope Benedict states.
On the contrary, Christians are âmen and women who are truly happy because they know they are not aloneâ because God is âalways holding them in his hand.â
âIt is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring.â
To read Pope Benedictâs full message for World Youth Day 2012, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=1061