are the salt of the earth,
John Paul II invites the youth of the world
Let us be witnesses to social justice
the 17th time since 1984, Pope John Paul II has invited the youth of the
world (especially those between the ages of 16 to 35) to gather for the
World Youth Day, which is held this year in Toronto, on July 18-28,
2002. Toronto was chosen because of its cultural diversity: over 170
different ethnic groups, speaking more than a hundred languages, live in
harmony in this city of 2.5 million people.
a million people are expected for the Mass at Downsview Lands on July
28, which will be open to the public. Many Pilgrims of St. Michael will
be present for this occasion. Here is the message
of the Holy Father for this exceptional gathering, to encourage the
youth of the world to be “witnesses to hope”:
Dear Young People!
have vivid memories of the wonderful moments we shared in Rome during
the Jubilee of the Year 2000, when you came on pilgrimage to the tombs
of the Apostles Peter and Paul. In long silent lines, you passed through
the Holy Door, and prepared to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation;
then the evening vigil and morning Mass at Tor Vergata were moments of
intense spirituality and a deep experience of the Church; with renewed
Faith, you went home to undertake the mission I entrusted to you: to
become, at the dawn of the new millennium, fearless witnesses to the
By now World Youth Day has become an
important part of your life and of the life of the Church. I invite you
therefore to get ready for the seventeenth celebration of this great
international event, to be held in Toronto, Canada. It will be another
chance to meet Christ, to bear witness to His presence in today's
society, and to become builders of the “civilization of love and truth”.
are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world”
(Mt 5:13-14): this is the theme I have chosen for the next World Youth
Day. The images of salt and light used by Jesus are rich in meaning, and
complement each other. In ancient times, salt and light were seen as
essential elements of life.
“You are the salt of the earth...” One
of the main functions of salt is to season food, to give it taste and
flavour. This image reminds us that, through Baptism, our whole being
has been profoundly changed, because it has been “seasoned” with the
new life which comes from Christ (cf. Rom 6:4). The salt which keeps our
Christian identity intact, even in a very secularized world, is the
grace of Baptism. Through Baptism, we are re-born. We begin to live in
Christ and become capable of responding to His call to “offer [our]
bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1).
Writing to the Christians of Rome, Saint Paul urges them to show clearly
that their way of living and thinking was different from that of their
contemporaries: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of
God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
For a long time, salt was also used to
preserve food. As the salt of the earth, you are called to preserve the
Faith which you have received, and to pass it on intact to others. Your
generation is being challenged in a special way to keep safe the deposit
of Faith (cf. 2 Th 2:15; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14).
Discover your Christian roots, learn about
the Church's history, deepen your knowledge of the spiritual heritage
which has been passed on to you, follow in the footsteps of the
witnesses and teachers who have gone before you! Only by staying
faithful to God's Commandments, to the Covenant which Christ sealed with
His blood poured out on the Cross, will you be the apostles and
witnesses of the new millennium.
It is the nature of human beings, and
especially youth, to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of
life. Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the
highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are
disillusioned with life, and have grown deaf to the deepest and most
authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with
hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in
life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord, you will steer clear of
the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.
"You are the light of the
world...". For those who first heard Jesus, as for us, the symbol
of light evokes the desire for truth and the thirst for the fullness of
knowledge which are imprinted deep within every human being.
When the light fades or vanishes altogether,
we no longer see things as they really are. In the heart of the night we
can feel frightened and insecure, and we impatiently await the coming of
the light of dawn. Dear young people, it is up to you to be the watchmen
of the morning (cf. Is 21:11-12) who announce the coming of the sun who
is the Risen Christ!
The light which Jesus speaks of in the
Gospel is the light of faith, God's free gift, which enlightens the
heart and clarifies the mind. "It is the God who said, `Let light
shine out of darkness', who has shone in our hearts to give the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ" (2 Cor
4:6). That is why the words of Jesus explaining his identity and his
mission are so important: "I am the light of the world; whoever
follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of
life" (Jn 8:12).
Our personal encounter with Christ bathes
life in new light, sets us on the right path, and sends us out to be his
witnesses. This new way of looking at the world and at people, which
comes to us from him, leads us more deeply into the mystery of faith,
which is not just a collection of theoretical assertions to be accepted
and approved by the mind, but an experience to be had, a truth to be
lived, the salt and light of all reality (cf. Veritatis Splendor, 88).
Be signs of God's love, be saints!
In this secularized age, when many of our
contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist or are attracted to
irrational forms of religion, it is you, dear young people, who must
show that faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life.
Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life's decisions and plans!
Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever
you work and live you will be signs of God's love, credible witnesses to
the loving presence of Jesus Christ. Never forget: "No one lights a
lamp and then puts it under a bushel" (Mt 5:15)!
Just as salt gives flavour to food and
light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life
and makes it reflect God's glory. How many saints, especially young
saints, can we count in the Church's history! In their love for God
their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models
of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all. Let us
remember only a few of them: Agnes of Rome, Andrew of Phú Yên, Pedro
Calungsod, Josephine Bakhita, Thérèse of Lisieux, Pier Giorgio
Frassati, Marcel Callo, Francisco Castelló Aleu or again Kateri
Tekakwitha, the young Iroquois called "the Lily of the Mohawks".
Through the intercession of this great host of witnesses, may God make
you too, dear young people, the saints of the third millennium!
Dear friends, it is time to get ready for
the Seventeenth World Youth Day. I invite you to read and study the
Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, which I wrote at the beginning
of the year to accompany all Christians on this new stage of the life of
the Church and humanity: "A new century, a new millennium are
opening in the light of Christ. But not everyone can see this light.
Ours is the wonderful and demanding task of becoming its `reflection'"
Yes, now is the time for mission! In
your Dioceses and parishes, in your movements, associations and
communities, Christ is calling you. The Church welcomes you and wishes
to be your home and your school of communion and prayer. Study the Word
of God and let it enlighten your minds and hearts. Draw strength from
the sacramental grace of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Visit the
Lord in that "heart to heart" contact that is Eucharistic
Adoration. Day after day, you will receive new energy to help you to
bring comfort to the suffering and peace to the world. Many people are
wounded by life: they are excluded from economic progress, and are
without a home, a family, a job; there are people who are lost in a
world of false illusions, or have abandoned all hope. By contemplating
the light radiant on the face of the Risen Christ, you will learn to
live as "children of the light and children of the day" (1 Th
5:5), and in this way you will show that "the fruit of light is
found in all that is good and right and true" (Eph 5:9).
Dear young friends, Toronto is waiting for
all of you who can make it! In the heart of a multi-cultural and
multi-faith city, we shall speak of Christ as the one Saviour and
proclaim the universal salvation of which the Church is the sacrament.
In response to the pressing invitation of the Lord who ardently desires
"that all may be one" (Jn 17:11), we shall pray for full
communion among Christians in truth and charity.
Come, and make the great avenues of Toronto
resound with the joyful tidings that Christ loves every person and
brings to fulfilment every trace of goodness, beauty and truth found in
the city of man. Come, and tell the world of the happiness you have
found in meeting Jesus Christ, of your desire to know him better, of how
you are committed to proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the ends of
The young people of Canada, together with
their Bishops and the civil authorities, are already preparing to
welcome you with great warmth and hospitality. For this I thank them all
from my heart. May this first World Youth Day of the new millennium
bring to everyone a message of faith, hope and love!
My blessing goes with you. And to Mary
Mother of the Church I entrust each one of you, your vocation and your
John Paul II
This article was published in the May-June-July, 2002 issue of “Michael”.