World Youth Day celebrations reached their climatic end on Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI concluded the biggest ever gathering of people in Australia. The Holy Father challenged the youth to bring about a “new age” for humanity by being open to the power of the Holy Spirit and to think about the legacy that they will leave for future generations.
In spectacular fashion, the Pope flew over the racecourse in a helicopter before processing through the 400,000 strong crowd. As his Popemobile navigated around the site, the Pope a received a ecstatic reception from the youth.
In his homily, the Pope highlighted the strength of the Holy Spirit, and the importance for hope to be revived, and especially for the youth to be Christ’s witnesses.
“What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure?” the Pope asked.
“Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom?"
“How are you using the gifts you have been given, the ‘power’ which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?”
The Pope also took the opportunity to focus on the theme of WYD08, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
“At each Mass, in fact, the Holy Spirit descends anew, invoked by the solemn prayer of the Church, not only to transform our gifts of bread and wine into the Lord’s body and blood, but also to transform our lives, to make us, in his power, ‘one body, one spirit in Christ,’” the Pope said.
Describing Australia as a “great south land of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope spoke of the “unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the beauty of nature,” received during WYD.
“Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: ‘charged,’ as the poet says, “with the grandeur of God”, filled with the glory of his creative love.”
“Here too, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the life of the Church. We have seen the Church for what she truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord.”
“The Holy Father also encouraged those present to pray, as the “power [of the] grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within.”
“That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church.”
The theme of hope in Christ was recurrent in the Pope’s homily.
“The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity. This power can create a new world: it can ‘renew the face of the earth’!”
A New Age of the Holy Spirit
The Pope spoke of a “new age,” where “a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed.”
“A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty.”
“A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.”
The Pope proclaimed that such renewal is necessary, saying that there “is [in] so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.”
“The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people.”
The Pope also called the young people to unity and to create an new era of evangelization.
“I pray that this great assembly, which unites young people ‘from every nation under heaven,’ will be a new Upper Room.”
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell also said a few words thanking the Pope and giving thanks for World Youth Day.
“Your Holiness… just a few days after your election as Bishop of Rome, you said that the historic days of April 2005 taught us that “the Church is not old and immobile; she is young.”
“So we give thanks for the WYD, which is a gift for the Church as a whole, for those both old and young. At WYD, the Church appears as she truly is, alive with evangelical energy!”