.- In anticipation of next July’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Benedict XVI is challenging young Catholics to be courageous missionaries to their peers.
“Dear young people, I would ask all of you to hear, in the depths of your heart, Jesus’ call to proclaim his Gospel,” the Pope said in a message issued Nov. 16.
Over 4,000 words long, his message meditated on the theme of the next World Youth Day, “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (Mt. 28:19). He urged young Catholics to live the universal Christian vocation to help others to know and love Christ and his Church.
The Pope emphasized that youth can be particularly effective missionaries by using their love for social media to proclaim their Catholic faith and values. This is an important way they can advance the New Evangelization discussed at last month’s synod of bishops in Rome, he noted.
“Learn how to use these media wisely,” he counseled. “Be aware of the hidden dangers they contain, especially the risk of addiction, of confusing the real world with the virtual, and of replacing direct and personal encounters and dialogue with internet contacts.”
Pope Benedict also emphasized that being a missionary is a deeply personal matter, requiring one to grow in faith in order to share it with others one-on-one. The act of sharing also aids one’s own personal journey of faith because proclaiming the Gospel helps a person become more deeply committed to Christ and grow in Christian maturity.
The essence of being a missionary means being attentive to Christ’s words, noted the Holy Father. Young people must look to him as the supreme teacher who calls his disciples to “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
This means taking to heart the essence of Christianity, that God so loves mankind that he sent his Son to “free us radically from evil.” And it is this love that compels Christians to share this Good News with others.
Pope Benedict observed that young Catholics have an important field of missionary work among their peers, because many young people “seriously question whether life is something good, and have a hard time finding their way.”
The moment to become missionaries is now, the Pope told young people.
“Whenever you feel inadequate, incapable and weak in proclaiming and witnessing to the faith, do not be afraid,” he said. “Evangelization is not our initiative, and it does not depend on our talents. It is a faithful and obedient response to God’s call and so it is not based on our power but on God’s.”
Love is the impetus behind evangelization, he noted, allowing people to overcome the tendency toward self-absorption and bad habits, in order to courageously give others an encounter with God.
Pope Benedict finished his message by giving young Catholics ways to prepare to be missionaries. He encouraged them to learn the content of their faith, look to the examples of the saints, and sustain themselves with prayer and the sacraments.
In particular, he noted the great benefit afforded by Eucharistic adoration because “time spent in listening and talking with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament becomes a source of new missionary enthusiasm.”
The 14th World Youth Day will be held from July 23–28 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil’s most populous city.