Question: Holy Father - if you will allow me to call you «papà» [as 'father', not as Pope], how difficult it is to live in God, with God, for God, when we young people feel besieged on all sides. There are many false prophets and vendors of illusion. There are too many peddlers of falsehood and ignoble ideas.
Nonetheless, young people today who believe in God, even if they feel themselves encircled, are convinced that God is the hope that resists all illusions, that only his love cannot be destroyed by death, even if most times, it is not easy to find the space and the courage to be his witnesses.
What to do then? How to behave? Is is worth wagering one's life on Christ? Life, family, love, joy, justice, respect for others, freedom, prayer, charity - are these values still worth defending? Is the life of blessed ones - blessed by the standards of the Beatitudes - a life adapted to the young people of the third millennium?
As you said, sincerity is fundamental. young people should feel that we are not saying words we have not ourselves experienced, but that we speak because we have found - and continue to seek anew every day - the truth, as truth for our life, for my life.
Only if we are on this road, ourselves, if we seek to assimilate ourselves to this quest and to assimilate our life to that of the Lord, then our words can be credible with visible and convincing logic.
This is the great fundamental rule not only for Lent, but for all of Christian life: Choose life, the reading tells us. You have before you life and death: choose life. That would be the natural response, of course. But there are those who feel deep within a will to destruction, to death, not wanting to exist anymore, because everything is contradictory for them. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon that is widening. With all the contradictions and false promises, life ultimately appears contradictory - no longer a gift but a condemnation, and that is why there are those who wish death more than life, when a normal man would say, Yes, I want life.
The question is how to find life, what are we choosing, how do we choose life? We know the offerings that are usually had these days - go to the discotheque, take everything you can get, consider freedom as doing what you please, everything that comes to mind at a certain moment.
But we know - and can show - that this road is one of lies, because in the end, one finds not life but the abyss of nothingness. Choose life! The same reading tells us: God is your life, you have chosen life, and your choice is God. This is fundamental. Only this way can our horizon be sufficiently large, and only this way we shall be at the source of life which is stronger than death and all its threats.
Therefore, the choice is clear. It must be understood that whoever takes the road without God will find himself in darkness, even if there may be moments when he seems to have found life.
Then the next step is how to find God, how to choose God. And here, we come to the Gospel: God is not an unknown, nor a hypothesis of the first beginning of the cosmos. God has flesh and blood. He is one of us. We know him by name and by face. He is Jesus who speaks to us in the Gospels. He is man and God. And being God, he chose to be man in order to make it possible for us to choose God. And so we need to first make the acquaintance of Jesus adn then to have his friendship in order to walk with him.
That, I think, should be the fundamental point in our pastoral care of young people: to call their attention to choosing God who is life. To the fact that God is. And he exists in a concrete way. And therefore to teach them to make friends with Jesus Christ.
There is a third step. This friendship with Jesus is not with someone who is unreal, or someone who belongs to the past or is remote from us, at the right hand of God. He is present in his body, which is still a body in flesh and blood: the Church and communion in the Church.
We should construct and make more accessible communities which reflect - are a mirror of - the great community of the living Church. It is a totality: the living experience of the community, with all its human weaknesses, but nonetheless real, that has a clear road, and a solid sacramental life, in which we can touch that which may appear to be distant, the presence of the Lord.
Int this way we can learn the commandments - and here we come back to Deuteronomy, with which we started. The reading says, : to choose God means to choose according to his Word, to live according to that Word. This may sound a bit positivistic at first: they are imperatives. But first, consider that his friendship is a gift. Then one can understand that these road sings are expressions of the reality of that friendship.
This, we can say, is a general view that comes from contact with Sacred Scripture and the daily life of the Church. But it must be translated step by step in concrete encounters with the young people: to guide them in their dialog with Jesus through prayer, through the reading of Sacred Scripture - communal reading, above all, but also personal - and through sacramental life. These are all steps to make these experiences present even in professional life, although it is often marked by the absence of God and by the apparent impossibility of seeing him present. But it is precisely then, through our life and our experience of God, that we should seek to bring the presence of Christ even into a world remote from God.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Wagering one's life on Christ
~translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum....from Pope Benedict's meeting with the priests and deacons of Rome. Here is a question on how to offer Christ to the youth