World Youth Day 2008 is taking place July 15-20 in Sydney, Australia. The following is excerpted from the official message Pope Benedict XVI sent in 2007 to the world’s young people to mark the occasion.
My dear young friends!
This will be the XXIII World Youth Day and the theme will be: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The underlying theme of the spiritual preparation for our meeting in Sydney is the Holy Spirit and mission.
Therefore it is very important that each one of you young people — in your communities, and together with those responsible for your education — should be able to reflect on this Principal Agent of salvation history, namely the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus. In this way you will be able to achieve the following lofty goals: to recognize the Spirit’s true identity, principally by listening to the Word of God in the Revelation of the Bible; to become clearly aware of his continuous, active presence in the life of the Church, especially as you rediscover that the Holy Spirit is the “soul,” the vital breath of Christian life itself, through the sacraments of Christian initiation — baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist; to grow thereby in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful and, at the same time, to put the Gospel into practice at the dawn of the third millennium.
You might ask, how can we allow ourselves to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and to grow in our spiritual lives? The answer, as you know, is this: We can do so by means of the sacraments, because faith is born and is strengthened within us through the sacraments, particularly those of Christian initiation: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, which are complementary and inseparable (see Catechism, No. 1285).
This truth concerning the three sacraments that initiate our lives as Christians is perhaps neglected in the faith life of many Christians … Yet it is through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and then, in an ongoing way, the Eucharist, that the Holy Spirit makes us children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, capable of a true witness to the Gospel, and able to savor the joy of faith.
I therefore invite you to reflect on what I am writing to you. Nowadays it is particularly necessary to rediscover the sacrament of confirmation and its important place in our spiritual growth. Those who have received the sacraments of baptism and confirmation should remember that they have become “temples of the Spirit”: God lives within them. Always be aware of this and strive to allow the treasure within you to bring forth fruits of holiness. Those who are baptized but have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation, prepare to receive it knowing that in this way you will become “complete” Christians, since confirmation perfects baptismal grace (Catechism, No. 1302-1304).
When the Spirit acts, he brings his fruits to the soul, namely “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). To those of you who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation, I extend a cordial invitation to prepare to receive it, and to seek help from your priests. It is a special occasion of grace that the Lord is offering you. Do not miss this opportunity!
I would like to add a word about the Eucharist. In order to grow in our Christian life, we need to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, we are baptized and confirmed with a view to the Eucharist (Catechism, No. 1322; Sacramentum Caritatis, 17). “Source and summit” of the Church’s life, the Eucharist is a “perpetual Pentecost” since every time we celebrate Mass we receive the Holy Spirit who unites us more deeply with Christ and transforms us into him.
My dear young friends, if you take part frequently in the Eucharistic celebration, if you dedicate some of your time to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the source of love which is the Eucharist, you will acquire that joyful determination to dedicate your lives to following the Gospel. At the same time it will be your experience that whenever our strength is not enough, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us, filling us with his strength and making us witnesses suffused by the missionary fervor of the risen Christ.
Many young people view their lives with apprehension and raise many questions about their future. They anxiously ask: How can we fit into a world marked by so many grave injustices and so much suffering? How should we react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can we give full meaning to life? How can we help to bring it about that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned above, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” can fill this scarred and fragile world, the world of young people most of all? On what conditions can the life-giving Spirit of the first creation and particularly of the second creation or redemption become the new soul of humanity?
Let us not forget that the greater the gift of God — and the gift of the Spirit of Jesus is the greatest of all — so much the greater is the world’s need to receive it and therefore the greater and the more exciting is the Church’s mission to bear credible witness to it. You young people, through World Youth Day, are in a way manifesting your desire to participate in this mission.
In this regard, my dear young friends, I want to remind you here of some key truths on which to meditate. Once again I repeat that only Christ can fulfill the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person. Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its “divinization.”
Through the power of his Spirit he instills divine charity within us, and this makes us capable of loving our neighbor and ready to be of service. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, revealing Christ crucified and risen, and shows us how to become more like him so that we can be “the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ” (Deus Caritas Est, No. 33). Those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit understand that placing oneself at the service of the Gospel is not an optional extra, because they are aware of the urgency of transmitting this Good News to others.
Nevertheless, we need to be reminded again that we can be witnesses of Christ only if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit who is “the principal agent of evangelization” (see Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 75) and “the principal agent of mission” (see Redemptoris Missio, No. 21). My dear young friends, as my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II said on several occasions, to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to the faith is more necessary than ever today (see Redemptoris Missio, No. 1). There are those who think that to present the precious treasure of faith to people who do not share it means being intolerant towards them, but this is not the case, because to present Christ is not to impose him (see Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 80).
Moreover, two thousand years ago twelve Apostles gave their lives to make Christ known and loved. Throughout the centuries since then, the Gospel has continued to spread by means of men and women inspired by that same missionary fervor.
Today too there is a need for disciples of Christ who give unstintingly of their time and energy to serve the Gospel. There is a need for young people who will allow God’s love to burn within them and who will respond generously to his urgent call, just as many young blesseds and saints did in the past and also in more recent times.