.- Before a World Youth Day crowd of more than one million in Marienfeld Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI called on young people to make their love for Christ and their desire to build a better world known to others.
“Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers,” he urged the pilgrims who came to Cologne, Germany for the 20th WYD.
The 78-year-old Pope delivered his homily from the Altar’s Hill, built in Marienfeld (the field of Mary) for the concluding papal events of World Youth Day. Organizers said 750 bishops concelebrated the mass with the Pope on the stage. Another 9,000 priests were seated on the grounds at the base of the hill.
Despite gray skies and 15-degree (Celsius) weather, pilgrims were enthusiastic in their welcome of the Pope, clapping their hands to the entrance hymn (Jesus Christ, You Are My Life) and fully participating in the mass. The Pope, dressed in gold vestments and mitre, waved and smiled.
The Pope delivered his homily in five languages: German, English, French, Italian and Spanish. He told the congregation that Christians must witness to unity through their lives, their capacity to forgive, their sensitivity to the needs of others, their willingness to share and their commitment to their neighbors. He said the elderly must not be abandoned to their solitude, and the suffering must not be ignored.
“If we think and live according to our communion with Christ, then our eyes will be opened,” he said, urging people to think beyond their own needs. “Then we will no longer be content to scrape a living just for ourselves, but we will see where and how we are needed. Living and acting thus, we will soon realize that it is much better to be useful and at the disposal of others than to be concerned only with the comforts that are offered to us.”
The Pope focused much of his homily on the Eucharist, saying that the Eucharist must become the center of our lives. He urged the young people to attend mass on Sundays and to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.
Through the Eucharist, Jesus transformed the brutal violence of his death into “an act of total self-giving love”, and death into life, he said. Only this central act of transformation can truly renew the world, and those who receive the Eucharist in turn are transformed by it and become the one Body of Christ, he stated.
“In this way, adoration…becomes union. God no longer stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us and we are in him,” the Pope said.
“Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your [weekend’s] free time,” he said. The crowd applauded in agreement.
“Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday mass, and help others to discover it too,” he told the youth. “This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it. Let us pledge ourselves to do this – it is worth the effort!”
He encouraged the young people to “discover the intimate riches of the Church’s liturgy and its true greatness” and to lead others to Jesus. “A great joy cannot be kept to oneself,” he said. “It has to be passed on.
“In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God,” the Pope observed. “It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him. But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything,” he said.
“People tend to exclaim: ‘This cannot be what life is about!’ Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion,” the Pope noted. He did not mention any religion and said he did not want to discredit any particular one, but he warned against turning religion into a consumer product.
“People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a “do-it-yourself” basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves,” he told the attentive crowd. “Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ!”
In order for young people to do this, he urged them to learn and study about Sacred Scripture, the Church’s teachings and traditions. But, he said, books are not enough. It is important to form communities based on faith. He noted the new movements and communities that have been established in recent decades.
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