St. Peter’s Basilica was filled on Thursday afternoon as thousands of young people participated in a liturgy of Reconciliation. Pope Benedict heard the confessions of some of the youth and delivered a talk to them in which he encouraged them to be open to the Holy Spirit so that through His grace they can become ‘redeemers of the young people of the world’.
The penitential liturgy was held with young people from Rome in preparation for the 23rd World Youth Day. Youth from around the world will gather for the celebration in Sydney, Australia from July 15 to 20. The theme for the gathering is: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses".
"At the roots of being Christian", the Holy Father told the young people, "is an encounter with an event, with a Person. This opens a new horizon and, with it, a decisive sense of direction". In order "to favor this encounter you are preparing to open your hearts to God, confessing your sins and - by the action of the Holy Spirit and through the ministry of the Church - receiving forgiveness and peace.
"Thus", he added, "we make room in ourselves for the presence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity which is the 'soul' and the 'vital breath' of Christian life. The Spirit helps us to grow 'in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful and, at the same time, to put the Gospel into practice'", he said.
On this subject, Pope Benedict recalled one of his own meditations on the Pentecost when he was archbishop of Munich and Freising, inspired by the film “Seelenwanderung" in which one of the characters sells his soul in exchange for worldly success. "From the moment he freed himself of his soul he no longer had any scruples or humanity", said the Pope, "providing striking evidence of how the facade of success often hides an empty life".
"A human being cannot throw away his own soul, because it is the soul that makes him human. ... Yet he does have the frightening possibility of being inhuman, of remaining a person but at the same time selling or losing his own humanity.
This change from human to inhuman is not viewable with one’s eyes and likewise, the Holy Spirit "cannot be seen with the eyes,” the Pope said. “Whether it enters into a person or not, it cannot be seen or demonstrated; but it changes and renews all the perspectives of human life. The Holy Spirit does not change the exterior situations of life, but the interior".
"Let us then", the Holy Father continued, "prepare ourselves, with a sincere examination of conscience, to present ourselves before the people to whom Christ entrusted the ministry of reconciliation. ... Thus will we experience true joy, the joy that derives from the mercy of God, flows into our hearts and reconciles us to Him. ... Be bearers of this joy, which comes from welcoming the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and witness its fruits in your own lives".
"Always remember that you are 'temples of the Spirit'. Allow Him to dwell in you and humbly obey His commands, in order to make your own contribution to the building of the Church and to discern the type of vocation to which the Lord calls you. ... Be generous, allow yourselves to be helped by using the Sacrament of Confession and by the practice of spiritual guidance".
Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by recalling how 25 years ago John Paul II inaugurated the San Lorenzo Youth Centre near the Vatican "to facilitate the welcome of young people, the sharing of experiences and the witness of faith and, above all, the prayer that helps us to discover the love of God".
On that 13 March 1983, John Paul II said: "Where can we go in this world, with sin and guilt, without the Cross? The Cross takes upon itself all the misery of the world, which is born of sin. It is the sign of grace. ... It encourages us to sacrifice ourselves for others".
"May this experience be renewed for you today", said Benedict XVI. "Look to the Cross now, and let us accept God's love which is given to us by the Cross, by the Holy Spirit which comes from the pierced side of the Lord and, as John Paul II said: 'Yourselves become redeemers of the young people of the world'".
During the ceremony, many of the thousands of young people present confessed with the Holy Father and with the hundreds of priests and penitentiaries from the four papal basilicas.