In a festive meeting with 10,000 Swiss youth gathered at the Ice Palace in Bern's Expo Center, Pope John Paul challenged them to "rise up," react against the temptations of contemporary society and accept God's call to follow Christ closely.
The Holy Father noted that the words "leve-toi" (rise up) referred to words in the Gospel of Luke spoken by Jesus in Nain to a young man, an only child, who had died and whose bier was being accompanied by his mother. He said he was in Switzerland to say these same words to young people, to ask them to arise and follow Christ as His disciples.
With forceful words, the Pope told the young people they could be part of "that sad procession in Nain" if they "give in to desperation, are seduced by the mirages of consumer societies and are distracted from true joy by enjoying passing pleasures, if you become wrapped up in indifference and superficiality, if, in the face of evil and suffering you doubt God's presence and His love for every person, if you seek in a disordered affection the answer to your inner thirst for true and pure love."
"It is in such moments that Christ comes close to you ... and says 'arise'. 'Welcome my invitation to get back up!'" said the Holy Father.
"Christianity," he added, "is not a simple book of culture or an ideology; nor is it a system of values or principles, even lofty ones. Christianity is a person, a presence, a face: Jesus, Who gives meaning and fullness to man's life."
"Do not be afraid of meeting Christ," he told his young listeners. "I too, like you, once was 20 years old. I loved sports, skiing, acting. I studied and I worked, I had desires and concerns.”
“In those years,” he continued, “now in the distant past, in times when my native country was wounded by war and then by the totalitarian regime, I sought meaning for my life. I found it in following Christ!"
"My second invitation to you is 'Listen!' Never tire of the difficult discipline of listening. Listen to the Lord's voice as He speaks to you in the events of everyday life, the joys and sufferings that accompany you, the persons near you, the voice of your conscience thirsty for the truth, for happiness, goodness and beauty."
If you listen carefully, he said, you will be able to discern your vocation, be it for family life or a call to the priesthood and religious life.
He exhorted the young people, with their energy, enthusiasm and ideals, "to make the Gospel permeate the fabric of society and produce a civilization of authentic justice and love without discrimination."