As I’ve become a father and now a grandfather, I catch myself thinking of World Youth Day (WYD) as an event–an amazing, terrific event, mind you–for another generation, but not for me.
As I’ve been reading the various papal addresses and homilies from the event, however, I’ve come to see with the Holy Father and St. Augustine that in order to stay young, we must seek Christ. Youthful vitality is not a measure of chronological age so much as it’s the reflection of a restless heart intent on finding the Lord and living in communion with Him. This dynamic of seeking and finding opens us to the work of the Holy Spirit in us and through us–even us balding grandfathers!
At least that’s what came to me as I was reading the WYD addresses. Here’s an excerpt from a July 4th address of Pope Benedict to the youth who would be attending the event later in the month:
“’You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). This is the theme of the Twenty-Third World Youth Day. How much our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit! There are still many who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, while many others, for whatever reason, have not recognized in this Good News the saving truth that alone can satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts. The Psalmist prays: ‘when you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth’ (Ps 104:30). It is my firm belief that young people are called to be instruments of that renewal, communicating to their peers the joy they have experienced through knowing and following Christ, and sharing with others the love that the Spirit pours into their hearts, so that they too will be filled with hope and with thanksgiving for all the good things they have received from God our heavenly Father.
“Many young people today lack hope. They are perplexed by the questions that present themselves ever more urgently in a confusing world, and they are often uncertain which way to turn for answers. They see poverty and injustice and they long to find solutions. They are challenged by the arguments of those who deny the existence of God and they wonder how to respond. They see great damage done to the natural environment through human greed and they struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another.
“Where can we look for answers? The Spirit points us towards the way that leads to life, to love and to truth. The Spirit points us towards Jesus Christ. There is a saying attributed to Saint Augustine: ‘If you wish to remain young, seek Christ.’ In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world. Our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord, as Saint Augustine says at the beginning of the Confessions, the famous account of his own youth. My prayer is that the hearts of the young people who gather in Sydney for the celebration of World Youth Day will truly find rest in the Lord, and that they will be filled with joy and fervor for spreading the Good News among their friends, their families, and all whom they meet.”
To view other homilies and addresses from World Youth Day, click here.