VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is hailing the "abundant fruits" of the initiative launched by his predecessor 25 years ago: an "annual meeting of believing young people," coming together to "discover the beauty of the Church."

The Pope reflected on the first quarter-century of World Youth Days in his Feb. 22 message for this year's celebration, which was released today.

He offered a meditation on Mark's account of Christ's meeting with a young man.

"This account expresses effectively Jesus' great attention to youth, to you, to your expectations, your hopes, and shows how great his desire is to meet with you personally and open a dialogue with each one of you," the Holy Father said. "In fact, Christ interrupts his journey to respond to his interlocutor's question, manifesting full availability to that young man, who was moved by an ardent desire to speak with the 'good Teacher,' to learn from him how to follow the way of life."

Taking up one of the principle themes of his pontificate, Benedict XVI reiterated that in "the Lord's look is the heart of the very special encounter and of all the Christian experience. In fact, Christianity is not primarily a morality, but [an] experience of Jesus Christ, who loves us personally, young and old, poor and rich; he loves us even when we turn our back to him."

"In this love is found the source of the whole of Christian life and the fundamental reason of evangelization," the Pope affirmed. "If we have truly encountered Jesus, we cannot do other than witness him to those who have not yet crossed his look!"

Ask questions

The Bishop of Rome encouraged youth of today to follow the man of the Gospel in seeking a "plan of life."

He said: "As the young man of the Gospel, perhaps you also live situations of instability, of disturbance or of suffering, which lead you to aspire to a life that is not mediocre, and to ask yourselves: In what does a successful life consist? What must I do? What might be my plan of life? [...]

"Do not be afraid to address these questions! Far from overwhelming you, they express great aspirations, which are present in your heart. Hence, they are to be listened to. They await answers that are not superficial, but able to satisfy your authentic expectations of life and happiness."

The Pontiff encouraged young people to listen to God and his "plan of love for each one of you."

"The Christian vocation springs from a proposal of love of the Lord and can be realized only thanks to a response of love," he continued. And he urged youth to live "intensely and fruitfully in this world."

Benedict XVI noted how in the Gospel, the rich young man turns away from Christ's invitation with sadness. But, he assured, "it is never too late to respond to him!"

Eternal life

The Holy Father reflected that the question posed by the man of the Gospel -- what must I do to inherit eternal life -- "seems far from the concerns of many contemporary young people."

But the question of eternal life does come up, the Pope suggested, in "painful moments of existence, when we suffer the loss of a close person or when we live the experience of failure."
He continued: "But what is the 'eternal life' to which the young man refers? It is illustrated by Jesus when, turning to his disciples, he affirms: 'I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.' They are words that indicate an exalted proposal of endless happiness, of joy of being filled with divine love forever.
"To ask oneself about the definitive future that awaits each one of us gives full meaning to existence, because it orients the plan of life toward horizons that are not limited and passing, but ample and profound, which lead to loving the world, so loved by God himself, to dedicate oneself to its development, but always with the liberty and joy born from faith and hope.

"They are horizons that help not to absolutize earthly realities, seeing that God prepares a greater prospect for us."

Authentic love

Benedict XVI went on to encourage young people to reflect on the Ten Commandments, calling them "essential points of reference to live in love, to clearly distinguish good from evil and build a solid and lasting plan of life."

"Jesus also asks you if you know the commandments, if you are concerned to form your conscience according to the divine law and if you will put it into practice," he said.

These are questions that "go against the current of the present-day mentality," the Pontiff acknowledged, since today's mentality "proposes a liberty disconnected from values, rules, objective norms and invites to reject every limitation to desires of the moment."

"But this type of proposal," he cautioned, "instead of leading to true liberty, leads man to become a slave of himself, of his immediate desires, of idols such as power, money, unbridled pleasure and the seductions of the world, rendering him incapable of following his original vocation to love."

Benedict XVI admitted that the period of youth brings with it many problems, but he urged: "Despite the difficulties, do not let yourselves be discouraged and do not give up your dreams! Instead, cultivate in your heart great desires of fraternity, justice and peace. The future is in your hands, because the gifts and riches that the Lord has enclosed in the heart of each one of you, molded by the encounter with Christ, can bring authentic hope to the world!

"It is faith in his love that, rendering you strong and generous, will give you the courage to address with serenity the journey of life and to assume family and professional responsibilities."

The Pope considered some of the world's challenges, to which youth are called to respond.

"They are challenges that call for an exacting and passionate plan of life, into which you put all your richness according [to] the plan that God has for each one of you," he said. "It is not a question of carrying out heroic or extraordinary gestures, but of acting by putting to good use one's talents and possibilities, committed to constantly progress in faith and love."

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