.- In preparation for this year’s World Youth Day, to be celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 1st, in all Catholic Dioceses of the world, Pope Benedict XVI offered a reflection on the theme, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The Holy Father challenged the world’s Catholic youth to look at Christ’s love demonstrated on the Cross and to “dare to love,” through a life of service, prayer, and charity.
The Holy Father also invited young people to take the opportunity of this year’s diocesan-based World Youth Day to prepare for 2008’s gathering in Sydney, Australia.
The Catholic Church holds a World Youth Day, involving the Pope and hundreds of thousand (if not millions) of young people, approximately every three years. 2005’s World Youth Day drew more than 1.2 million people to Cologne, Germany.
While the large-scale triennial World Youth Days draw a lion’s share of media attention, the Church celebrates a World Day for the Youth every year at the diocesan level.
“Everybody feels the longing to love and to be loved,” the Pontiff began his message, noting the difficulties, mistakes, and failures which arise in mankind’s attempts at love.
However, he said, "Love is possible, and the purpose of my message is to help reawaken in each one of you - you who are the future and hope of humanity- trust in a love that is true, faithful and strong; a love that generates peace and joy; a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another."
The Holy Father then discussed the way in which the love of God is revealed to mankind: “In Christ, true God and true Man, we have come to know love in all its magnitude,” he said.
“The manifestation of divine love is total and perfect in the Cross. ... Redeemed by His blood, no human life is useless or of little value, because each of us is loved personally by Him with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits."
"Moreover, the Crucifix, which after the Resurrection would carry forever the marks of His passion, exposes the 'distortions' and lies about God that underlie violence, vengeance and exclusion. Christ is the Lamb of God Who takes upon Himself the sins of the world and eradicates hatred from the heart of humankind. This is the true 'revolution' that He brings about: love."
Christ desired to teach mankind from the Cross, the Holy Father said, “the need and urgency to love Him as He has loved us.” And, he added, “to love as He loves us means loving everyone without distinction, even our enemies, 'to the end.'"
The Pontiff then recommended three particular areas in which young people are “particularly called to demonstrate the love of God.”
“The first area,” he said, “is the Church, our spiritual family. ... You should stimulate, with your enthusiasm and charity, the activities of the parishes, the communities, the ecclesial movements and the youth groups to which you belong.”
"The second area,” Benedict continued, “is your preparation for the future that awaits you. If you are engaged to be married, God has a project of love for your future as a couple and as a family. Therefore, it is essential that you discover it with the help of the Church, free from the common prejudice that says that Christianity with its commandments and prohibitions places obstacles to the joy of love and impedes you from fully enjoying the happiness that a man and woman seek in their reciprocal love."
"The period of engagement, very necessary in order to form a couple, is a time of expectation and preparation that needs to be lived in purity of gesture and words. It allows you to mature in love, in concern and in attention for each other; it helps you to practise self-control and to develop your respect for each other. These are the characteristics of true love that does not place emphasis on seeking its own satisfaction or its own welfare. In your prayer together, ask the Lord to watch over and increase your love and to purify it of all selfishness.
"Do not hesitate to respond generously to the Lord's call, for Christian matrimony is truly and wholly a vocation in the Church. Likewise, dear young men and women, be ready to say 'yes' if God should call you to follow the path of ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life. Your example will be one of encouragement for many of your peers who are seeking true happiness."
"The third area of commitment that comes with love is that of daily life with its multiple relationships. I am particularly referring to family, studies, work and free time.”
“Develop your capacities, not only in order to become more 'competitive' and 'productive,' but to be 'witnesses of charity.' In addition to your professional training, also make an effort to acquire religious knowledge that will help you to carry out your mission in a responsible way. In particular, I invite you to carefully study the social doctrine of the Church so that its principles may inspire and guide your action in the world."
Pope Benedict concluded his message by challenging all young people to, “dare to love,” urging them, “Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters.”
“Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilizations.”
The Pontiff encouraged the youth to seek the help of the Lord in their endeavors of love through prayer and the Eucharist.
“May Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, help you to let that cry ring out everywhere, the cry that has changed the world: 'God is love!'”
For the full text of the Holy Father's message see CNA's link here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=150