“My desire is that you come to know and receive the love of Jesus, that you embrace him in profound friendship,” said Archbishop Aquila on July 25.
He explained that there are different kinds of friendships, “some are acquaintances and some we know profoundly, and it is that type of intimacy that Jesus wants to have with each one of you.”
“My beloved ones, Jesus and the Father love you,” he stated. “It’s important for you to say ‘yes’ to this great truth.”
“If we truly trust in Jesus, he will change everything in our lives,” he proclaimed.
Archbishop Aquila spoke to around 300 young people at the College of Our Lady of Mercy at Fonseca-Niterói in Rio de Janeiro as part of the catechesis or teaching sessions that occur during World Youth Day.
But having Christ change their lives, the archbishop taught, “will not happen without your own conversion.”
“This will take your whole life and you need to be prepared to do it,” he stated.
The archbishop underscored the importance of surrendering to Christ and added that the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist, available after each of World Youth Day’s catechesis sessions, are an opportunity for the youth to do this.
“Jesus desires friendship with us,” he said. “The relationship with Jesus, the communion with him, is not about a philosophy, or moral rules, but an encounter with Jesus.”
To make his point, Archbishop Aquila recalled the time when Jesus’ disciples asked him where he lived. Christ responded by inviting them to “come and see” and they spent the entire day with him, he recalled.
“Jesus extends this invitation to you today, to come and see,” Archbishop Aquila said.
“He only invites, never imposes; it is up to you to cooperate with Jesus, to open your mind and heart, to hear Jesus,” he added.
Denver’s archbishop also made the point that it is God who initiates a relationship of love and intimacy, because he is the one who created us.
In life, “we have to first receive love and then learn how to give love, and this also happens with God,” he stated.
“The greatest love to the world, to us, is his Son, Jesus Christ, and learning from his love, we will love also; if we are in Jesus, we will bring others to him,” he said.
Archbishop Aquila also tackled the issue of Christians experience suffering and difficulty.
God loves us, but that does not mean there won’t be crosses or difficulties, he said.
“And yet, in the midst of that, Jesus is still with us,” he added. “Jesus knows much about it, he truly has experienced suffering and denial.”
Pointing to the cross, Archbishop Aquila emphasized that by looking at the cross, we can see the love of God for humanity, and also the rejection from humanity.
“But we can especially see that evil does not overcome good, Jesus rises from the dead,” he taught.
“In his body,” the archbishop noted, “he is is truly risen and now he reveals even more the love of God the Father.”
Archbishop Aquila finished his talk by returning to the theme of friendship, recalling that Jesus told the disciples, “no longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends.”
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila encouraged young people attending World Youth Day to move beyond having a surface-level friendship with Jesus to know him “profoundly.”
World Youth Day, World Youth Day - Rio 2013