Pope Benedict XVI told the hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims at World Youth Day in Madrid that they will be happy and at peace if they center their lives on the “solid rock” of Jesus Christ.

Build “your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ,” he urged. “Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others.”

“They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.”

The Pope made his remarks on the evening of Aug. 18 at the Plaza de Cibeles. The gathering was his first face-to-face meeting with the massive throng of cheering young people gathered from dozens of countries across the globe.

As the popemobile made its way to the plaza through the crowds, Pope Benedict smiled and waved to the thousands of youth waving their national flags and enthusiastically yelling their greetings.

The night's events included a local group of university students singing for the Pope, an official welcome from Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, gifts being presented by several young people from the various regions of the world, and a liturgy that included a procession and Gospel reading.

“Today Madrid is also the capital of the world’s young people, and the gaze of the whole Church is fixed here,” Pope Benedict said. “Let us pray that his message of hope and love will also resound in the hearts of those who are not believers or who have grown distant from the Church.”

In his homily, the pontiff drew from the Gospel of Mark reading that contrasts the wise man who built his house on rock and the foolish man who built his house on sand.

When “we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake,” he said.

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But if “you build on solid rock, not only will your life be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ, shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity.”

The Pope lamented that many people today create “their own gods” and believe that they need “no roots or foundations” other than themselves.

“They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment.”

He noted that although these temptations are “always lying in wait,” it is important not to give in, since they lead to a fleeting and illusory half-life which fails to satisfy.

“We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness,” he reminded the youth. We are “responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative coworkers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation.”

Pope Benedict encouraged the young pilgrims to use the upcoming days to get to know Christ better. If you are “rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, will always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you.”

In his closing remarks, the Pope dedicated “the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said 'Yes' to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to his death upon the Cross.”

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“Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our 'Yes' to Christ today may also be an unconditional 'Yes' to his friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives.”

The Pope will pray the Stations of the Cross with the pilgrims at Cibeles Square on the evening of Friday, Aug. 19 after meeting with college professors and religious sisters earlier that day. On Aug. 20, he will meet patients at a local hospital and take part in a prayer vigil that night with the young people.

Pope Benedict’s World Youth Day visit will culminate on Sunday, Aug. 21 in an outdoor Mass which is expected to draw over 1 million people.