Cardinal Meisner's Homily at Opening Mass

«Your Presence Is the Result of an Act of Mercy by God»

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COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 16, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the homily delivered today by Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, during the Mass at which he presided in the RheinEnergie Stadium to open World Youth Day.

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Brothers and Sisters!

1. Welcome to the Archdiocese of Cologne! We are delighted that you are all here. We are celebrating the first World Youth Day with two Popes: with Pope John Paul II in heaven above, and with our Pope Benedict XVI here on earth. What an amazing celebration of faith this will be! Three weeks before he died, the Holy Father called me to his room in the Gemelli hospital and asked me, «Are they still waiting for me in Cologne?» I replied, «Holy Father, we are faithfully waiting for you.» We now call up to heaven: «Holy Father John Paul II, we are waiting for you!» And we call to Rome: «Holy Father Benedict XVI, we are waiting for you!» With Peter of yesterday, that is John Paul II, and Peter of today, that is Benedict XVI, in our midst, we are strengthened on our pilgrimage, for the Lord said to Peter, «Strengthen your brothers (and sisters)» (Luke 22:32).

Young people are so much closer to the beginning of their lives than older people. That is why the origin of their life in God’s hand is a far stronger and more intensive aspect of their search for the true life, than for others. Those who give the young God-seekers any less than God are not giving them enough. Your search for a fulfilled life has taken you on a journey to Cologne, where we will be following in the footsteps of the first God-seekers, the Three Kings. Two years ago, Pope John Paul II took the words written by Matthew the Evangelist and made them the motto of World Youth Day in Cologne: «We have come to worship Him» (cf. Matthew 2:2).

2. We all have only one life. We are not granted a probationary period, free of responsibilities, like we are when we gain our driving licenses. We all set out on the road of life with a full set of responsibilities. There is no provisional license for life, love, faith or death. This is the real thing. We all carry full responsibility from the very beginning. I do not really need to tell you this, as you will be instinctively aware of it as creatures made by God.

That is what you have in common with all young people around the world. You are encountering each other this week not as strangers, but as relatives and companions. We are «relatives» because we were all created by the same God, and «companions» because we have joined each other in our search for a fulfilled and worthwhile life, for a life with God. Worship means no more, but also no less, than coming eye to eye with God and kneeling down before him — kneeling down before the child in the manger, like the Wise Men.

God has made himself so small that he fits in with our personal lives and life-stories. However, it would be easy to overlook him if we were to go through life with our noses up in the air. He becomes visible at this low level as he washes the feet of his disciples. God is down below. Worshipping him on bended knee does not make us small, it makes us great, because it takes us eye to eye with God.

3. We all share a yearning for the good, the pure, the great and the beautiful. Why is that? Because we were all made in the image of God, who is the highest good and purity personified. That is why no one can want to be bad, impure and ugly. The hunger for love is in all of us.

When I asked a nonbeliever, «Do you wish to be unloved?» he answered, «That would be hell.» How did he know this without having been taught about faith? Because we all originated in God’s hand and have an intuitive knowledge of God and the fact that we were made in his image. And because God never releases us, even if we break away from him, we always instinctively remain aware of our origin and destination. Saint Augustine already realized this 1,600 years ago. He summarized this insight in his memorable words: «Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.»

4. Two thousand years ago, this inner driving force from God caused the Three Kings to commence their journey to Christ. It has also brought you here to Cologne to look for and find God. He guarantees you a great future and a fulfilled life. For Christ, there was no alternative. When some of the disciples disagreed with his teachings, they decided to turn away from him.

Jesus asked the remaining disciples, «Do you also wish to go away?» And it was the first Peter who gave the Lord an answer that is both the first and the shortest creed in holy Scripture: «Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life» (John 6:68). Peter’s creed is also our own. «Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.»

The Lord expressly tells us, «No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me» (John 6:44). You, dear brothers and brothers, have been drawn by the Father. That is the ultimate reason why you are here in Cologne. Your presence here is the result of an act of mercy by God. And I promise you sincerely: He will therefore remain your leader. He will turn you into a blessing for your environment, your fatherland, for the whole world, and guide you in bringing the world closer to God. That is how the world will remain a habitable place for us humans as God’s children.

And that is why, dear young pilgrims from around the world, you are the future of the Church and the future of the World, because you are the children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ and the living temple of the Holy Spirit. The world does not survive first and foremost on production figures, refrigerators, missiles and similar commodities. It is sustained primarily through its connection to the living God and in turn to the source of its life.

World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne is not just a purely Catholic event. It concerns the whole world. Christ is not a Christian property agent — he is the Lord of the world. And this week, we will be searching for Christ not just for our own benefit, but especially for that of our other brothers and sisters so that they may experience the joy of faith in Christ. Amen.

Joachim Cardinal Meisner
Archbishop of Cologne

[Translation of German original issued by the organizers of Cologne’s World Youth Day]

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