In a strong-worded message, Pope calls on Latin American youth to discover, follow God's call

Sao Paulo, May 10, 2007 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- Addressing a cheering crown gathered at the old soccer Stadium of Pacaembu in Sao Paulo, Pope Benedict XVI challenged Brazilian and Latin American young people not to "spoil your youth" but to listen and follow God's call in their lives.

In a long and energetic speech addressed from the dove-shaped dome on a sunny afternoon, the Pontiff commented on the Gospel passage of the rich young man (Mt 19:16-22) and said, "While flying over the land of Brazil yesterday evening, I was already anticipating our encounter here in the Stadium of Pacaembu, anxious to extend to all of you a warm Brazilian embrace and to share with you the sentiments which I carry in the depths of my heart, and which are very appropriately indicated to us in today’s Gospel."

Recalling his predecessor, who visited Brazil in three occasions, Benedict said: "In 1991, during his visit to Mato Grosso, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, said that 'youth are the first protagonists of the third millennium … they are the ones who will be charged with the destiny of this new phase in human history.' Today, I feel moved to make the same observation regarding all of you."

Speaking about the character of Mathew's Gospel, the Pope said it “speaks of a young man who ran to see Jesus. His impatience merits special attention. In this young man I see all of you young people of Brazil and Latin America. You have ‘run’ here from various regions of this Continent for this meeting of ours. You want to listen to the words of Jesus himself—spoken through the voice of the Pope."

"You have a crucial question to put to him. It is the same question posed by the young man who ran to see Jesus: What good deed must I do, to have eternal life? I would like to take a deeper look at this question with you. It has to do with life. A life which—in all of you—is exuberant and beautiful. What are you to do with it? How can you live it to the full?" the Pontiff asked.

"The young man’s question,” the Pope explained, “raises the issue of life’s meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted? Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore, can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness."

"To understand what is good,” he continued, “we need help, which the Church offers us on many occasions, especially through catechesis."

Pope Benedict continued to explain the parallel between the young man of the Gospel, who "kept the commandments," and asked: “And you, young people of Brazil and Latin America, have you already discovered what is good? Do you follow the Lord’s commandments? Have you discovered that this is the one true road to happiness?"

And he warned: "These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your ‘tomorrow’ depends much on how you are living the ‘today’ of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility."

The Pontiff then delivered lively words of enthusiasm to which the young present responded with long cheers and applause: "You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential."

"You can be the builders of a new society,” he added, “if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation."

The Pope encouraged the youth to "have great respect for the institution of the sacrament of Matrimony," because "there cannot be true domestic happiness unless, at the same time, there is fidelity between spouses."

But he also recalled that "some are called to a total and definitive self-giving, by consecrating themselves to God in the religious life." "I pray that in this moment of grace and profound communion in Christ, the Holy Spirit will awaken in the hearts of many young people an impassioned love, prompting them to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, totally devoted to the glory of the Father and to love for their brothers and sisters," he added.

Finally, going back to the passage of the rich young man, the pope recalled that, "he withdrew to his riches, turning them to selfishness."

"My appeal to you today, young people present at this gathering, is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity."

“You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured," the Pope said in closing.


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