RESPOND GENEROUSLY TO CHRIST'S CALL
Pope John Paul II
To Young People of Slovakia June 30, 1995
Praised be Jesus Christ!
I greet Mr. Kovac, President of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Gasparovic, President of the Slovak Parliament, Mr. Meciar, Prime Minister of the Government, and the welcome guests. I greet all my young friends.
Now I will say something to you in Polish, so that you can understand: we are not afraid of the rain! We are not afraid of the rain because there isn't any. But not so long ago I was in Moravia, in Olomouc, and there it was very different from today.
There the young people were able to say at Svaty Kopecek: we are not afraid of the rain!
1. Dear Young Friends! In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, we heard that some Greeks wished to see Jesus. The two holy brothers from Thessalonica, Cyril and Methodius, were Greek too. Thanks to their apostolic commitment, the Spirit brought the good seed of the Gospel to this land of yours, where your ancestors had made known their wish to know Christ. Prince Rastislav expressed this wish by sending messengers to Constantinople. And it was on this soil that the holy Brothers sowed the seed, giving their lives in order to plant the kingdom of God and make it grow.
Dear young people, the youth of this country, you are a new harvest of God's field, of that great harvest which goes back to the days when the saints from Thessalonica preached the Gospel here. In order to be worthy followers of theirs, accept the challenge of devoting yourselves with generosity to the work of the new evangelization, thus forming a bridge between the second and third Christian millennia.
Nitra speaks to us of the first millennium: the first Christian church of Eastern Central Europe was built nearby; here, since the year 828, wheat has become, in the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, which unites in itself all who receive it with faith. This is why I have wished to visit Nitra: this Diocese was erected while St. Methodius was still living, and the cathedral which dominates the city is one of the most ancient episcopal sees in the Slav nations. Here was born Gorazd, "a man of your land, well versed ... and orthodox", the trusted disciple whom Methodius chose as his successor.
I am deeply moved as I gaze upon Zabor. On its slopes about the year 1000 the monastery of St. Hippolytus was built, where my fellow countryman St. Andrew Svorad and his disciple St. Benedict, the heavenly patrons of your city and Diocese, received their training. These, and so many other lesser known heroes of the faithI think, for example, fo the holy Bishop Bystrikare like seeds fallen in the fertile soil of Nitra, a soil of heralds and intrepid apostles of Christ.
2. It is on this blessed soil that I meet you today, dear young friends from the Dioceses of Slovakia! I greet all of you with affection, together with the Bishop of Nitra, Cardinal Jan Chryszostom Korec, his Auxiliary, Bishop Frantisek Rabek, the other Bishops present, and all your priests. I also greet the young people from neighbouring countries: from Bohemia and Moravia, from Austria, Hungary, and Poland; I greet the Rom youth as well. I am pleased to see the representatives of those doing their military service. My special greeting goes to those who, for different reasons, could not be present but are spiritually united with us.
Dear friends, like the Greeks spoken of in the Gospel passage we have just heard, you too wish to "see Jesus". Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of mankind, fully responds to the deepest desires of the human heart. He came so that "we might have life and have it abundantly" (cf. Jn 10:10). He has "the words of eternal life" (Jn 14:6).
Many of you are convinced of this. Many have also paid personally for their fidelity to Christ. Others, perhaps, have not been able to come to a deep knowledge of Christ and the Church because this was denied to them, and now they have many questions about the faith. Others are still unsure, confused and in danger of giving in to the deceptive appeal of short-lived and passing currents of thought.
3. As we read in the Gospel, the Greeks, in order to meet Jesus, approached Philip, one of the Twelve. Jesus entrusted the authentic witness of his truth to the Apostles. Do you remember what happened when people heard his words? Many of his followers turned away. Jesus asked the Twelve: "Do you also wish to go away?" It was Peter who replied: "Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn 6:68- 69), the Messiah. Jesus himself made it clear that this proclamation of faith by Peter was a gift from the heavenly Father. And precisely on this faith the Church was built (cf. Mt 16:16-18). Jesus prayed for Peter's faith, in order that he might be able to confirm his brothers (cf. Lk 22:32).
This is why the successor of Peter visits the Churches spread throughout the world, and why he is present today in your midst. And you yourselves have come to me with a wish like that of the Greeks who went to the Apostle Philip and said: "We wish to see Jesus". Yes, dear friends, you can find the true knowledge of Jesus only in communion with the successors of the Apostles, united in the same faith with the Successor of Peter.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8). Dear young friends, make your own the apostolic faith of the Church! Remain united with your Bishops, listen to them, meet the priests, in the parishes and in the schools. Deepen your knowledge of Christ under their guidance, be assiduous in listening to the word of God, in prayer, in receiving the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. This is something I say to young people in every country, above all in the World Youth Meetings, and this is what I repeat to you, dear Slovak friends!
4. When faith is authentic personal fidelity to Christ and the Gospel, it becomes incarnate in life. Jesus says as much: "Whoever loves me will keep my word" (Jn 14:23). To keep the Lord's word is to carry out the mission which has been given to us. In Manila we paused to consider this truth, reflecting on it with young people from all over the world. We were guided by the words which the risen Lord spoke to the Apostles: "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you" (Jn 20:21). This mandate is addressed to each Christian, each one of you! Nitra was once the site of a powerful missionary movement. Dear young friends, yours is the task of reviving that ancient enthusiasm. Jesus puts his trust in you. Through you he wishes to reach every part of society and transform it with the power of his truth and love. You are not alone in this mission. The Holy Spirit is with you.
Before he died, St. Cyril asked for the gift of the Spirit to be given to the Christians of this land; he prayed in these words: "Pour into their hearts the word of your sonship". Only those who have received within themselves the new life of the Spirit and who act as children of God can be a seed of new life. So open your hearts, dear young friends, to this divine breath, to this sharing in the life and the love of God!
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who gives life to the Mystical Body of the Church. In order to be enlivened by the Spirit, you need to be united to the Church. Those who reject the Church in the name of the Spirit are deceiving themselves. Only the person who loves the Church and works for her unity is moved by the Spirit of God and walks according to the Gospel.
5. Dear friends, be conscious of the priceless gift which God has given you: it has come to you down the long road of the generations from the time of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Welcome it with responsible freedom and commit yourselves to developing it. When you are faced with the radical demands of the Gospel, do not pull back! Remember that the Spirit of God within you is stronger than the spirit of the world (cf. 1 Jn 4:4). With the Spirit's help, you can be filled with joy in keeping the commandments.
Do not confuse freedom with individualism! There is no genuine freedom without love for others. Christians live freedom as a service, convinced that the development of an authentic civilization depends on this, in Europe and throughout the world.
Sts. Cyril and Methodius paid with their lives for their refusal to subject the faith to partisan interests. Faith always defends true freedom and denounces slavery, whether physical or moral.
Physical forms of slavery are more easily recognized than moral slavery, but moral slavery is no less dangerous. There is in fact a slavery which is imposed by others and a slavery which people impose upon themselves. Young Slovaks, keep your eyes wide open! Do not let yourselves be trapped by a false freedom, which in the name of an apparent well-being spreads indifference and relativism which deprives consciences of the values which give meaning to life. At the level of society too, freedom shoudl not be confused with nationalism. The variety of cultures is a heritage which needs to be preserved with great mutual respect and effective cooperation. Reject all temptations to violence and racism. Work for peace, dialogue and solidarity.
6. Be ready to respond generously to Christ's call!
Especially you, dear young people who have received the gift of a vocation to the priestly or religious life. Dear seminarians, dear novices, prepare yourselves conscientiously to serve the Lord and your brothers and sisters by following the example of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
You too, dear young people who are called to marriage and family life, must be ready to respond to Christ's call. This is also a magnificent vocation! Learn true love from Christ, a love which is demanding, not closed in the search for selfish pleasure, but open to the giving of self. With this interior disposition you will be able to form families which are authentic sanctuaries of love, where human life is welcomed and cared for from its very first moments to its natural end.
Many of you are preparing for work and for a task in society, others are already at work. Whatever you do, act always with great commitment and competence, faithful to Christian morality and ready to be of service the civil and political order, always keeping in mind the common good. Can we overlook those young people who are enduring difficulties of various types: unemployment, sickness, invalidity, discouragement?
Christ, who accepted the Cross to free us from sin, is particularly close to those who feel its burden, and when they are tested he strengthens them with his Spirit.
Dear friends, Christ has repeated to us today: "If anyone wishes to serve me, he must follow me" (Jn 12:26). And for our consolation he adds: "The Father will honour whoever serves me" (ibid.). This was the case with Sts. Cyril and Methodius and with so many other saints of the Slav-speaking lands: the Father has honoured them. This is what will happen also with the three Martyrs of Kosice, when, in two days' time, I proclaim them saints for all the Church: they followed Christ, and the Father has honoured them before the whole world.
Can we trust in Christ's words? Can we accept the demands they make and follow him so as to serve him? Yes, we know this: only in the Holy Spirit can it be done. I pray to almighty God for each one of you and for all the young people who live in this land below the Tatra Mountains: "Pour into their hearts, Lord, the word of your sonship!"
With all my heart I bless you and your families.
Weekly Edition in English
12 July 1995, pp. 7, 11
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