Dear Young Friends,
“It is good for us to be here!” (Mt 17:4). These words were spoken by Saint Peter on Mount Tabor as he stood in the presence of Jesus transfigured in glory. Truly it is good for us to be here, together, at this shrine of the Korean Martyrs, in whom the Lord’s glory was revealed at the dawn of the Church’s life in this country. In this great assembly, which brings together young Christians from throughout Asia, we can almost feel the glory of Jesus present in our midst, present in his Church which embraces every nation, language and people, present in the power of his Holy Spirit who makes all things new, young and alive!
I thank you for your warm welcome – very warm eh? Very warm! And I thank you for the gift of your enthusiasm, your joyful songs, your testimonies of faith, and your beautiful expressions of the variety and richness of your different cultures. In a special way, I thank May, Giovanni and Marina, the three young people who shared with me your hopes, your problems and your concerns; I listened to them carefully, and I will keep them in mind. I thank Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik for his words of introduction and I greet all of you from my heart.
This afternoon I would like to reflect with you on part of the theme of this Sixth Asian Youth Day: “The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You”. Just as the Lord made his glory shine forth in the heroic witness of the martyrs, so too he wants to make his glory shine in your lives, and through you, to light up the life of this vast continent. Today Christ is knocking at the door of your heart, my heart. He calls you to rise, to be wide awake and alert, and to see the things in life that really matter. What is more, he is asking you and me to go out on the highways and byways of this world, knocking on the doors of other people’s hearts, inviting them to welcome him into their lives.
This great gathering of Asian young people also allows us to see something of what the Church herself is meant to be in God’s eternal plan. Together with young people everywhere, you want to help build a world where we all live together in peace and friendship, overcoming barriers, healing divisions, rejecting violence and prejudice. And this is exactly what God wants for us, for only us. The Church is meant to be a seed of unity for the whole human family. In Christ, all nations and peoples are called to a unity which does not destroy diversity but acknowledges, reconciles and enriches it.
How distant the spirit of the world seems from that magnificent vision and plan! How often the seeds of goodness and hope which we try to sow seem to be choked by weeds of selfishness, hostility and injustice, not only all around us, but also in our own hearts. We are troubled by the growing gap in our societies between rich and poor. We see signs of idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure which come at a high cost to human lives. Closer to home, so many of our own friends and contemporaries, even in the midst of immense material prosperity, are suffering from spiritual poverty, loneliness and quiet despair. God seems to be removed from the picture. It is almost as though a spiritual desert is beginning to spread throughout our world. It affects the young too, robbing them of hope and even, in all too many cases, of life itself.
Yet this is the world into which you are called to go forth and bear witness to the Gospel of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the promise of his Kingdom. In the parables, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom comes into the world quietly, growing silently yet surely wherever it is welcomed by hearts open to its message of hope and salvation. The Gospel teaches us that the Spirit of Jesus can bring new life to every human heart and can transform every situation, even the most apparently hopeless. This is the message which you are called to share with your contemporaries: at school, in the workplace, in your families, your universities and your communities. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that he has “the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68), that his word has the power to touch every heart, to conquer evil with good, and to change and redeem the world.
Dear young friends, in this generation the Lord is counting on you! He entered your hearts on the day of your Baptism; he gave you his Spirit on the day of your Confirmation; and he strengthens you constantly by his presence in the Eucharist, so that you can be his witnesses before the world. Are you ready to say “yes” to him? Are you ready? Thank you. Are you tired? Sure?
A friend of mine told me yesterday, you can’t speak to young people with paper. You must address young people spontaneously….You must, with the young people, you must speak to these young people from the heart. But I have a difficulty. I have poor English, [they shout: “No!”] … yes, yes. So I can’t do a lot spontaneously [in English]. Can I go on? Are you tired? I go on in Italian. Can you translate this? [asking the translator]
I listened very closely to what Marina said. Her conflict in life, whether to go into the consecrated life or study and become a professional to enter the workforce. The conflict is only apparent. When the Lord calls us to do good for others, it’s the same, whether it be in the consecrated life, as a lay person, or in a family.
What should I choose? You do not have to choose any path. The Lord must choose! You must ask Him: ‘Lord, what should I do?’ This is the question that I had done at your age. This is the prayer that a young man has to do: Lord what do you want from me?
You have to pray and listen to the advice of some true friends, secular priests nuns, bishops and even the Pope who can give good advice to find the way that the Lord wants for me. I recommend you pray, “Lord what do you want of my life?” Repeat it at least three times.
I’m sure the Lord will listen to you. Marina, you too, thank you for your testimony.
May also asked about the martyrs, saints and witnesses, and with pain and nostalgia, said that in Cambodia there are still no saints. It is certain that there are many saints in Cambodia, but the Church has not yet canonized or beatified any. I promise to speak in Rome with [Cardinal] Angelo Amato [prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints] and ask him to do some research on this.
Marina made two reflections and a question.
On happiness. Happiness can not be bought, as what you buy doesn’t last. Just the happiness of love is that which lasts. And the path of love is simple. Love God and love your neighbor as your brother, as the one who is close to you, who needs love, who needs a lot of things.
How can you understand whether you really love God? If you love your neighbor, if you do not have hate in your heart, that is a sure proof that you love God.
Marina has asked a painful question about the division of the Koreas. There is a divided Korea, the family is divided. How can we help this family unite? Two things. A piece of advice and a hope.
The advice is to pray for our brothers in the North: Lord we are a family. Help us toward unity, that you can do, so that there are no winners or victory, only one family … Just to be brothers. I invite you to pray together for the unity of the two Koreas. Let us pray [pauses for moment of silent prayer].
Hope. There are many hopes, hopes that there is a beautiful Korea that is one [country], that is one family, that speaks the same language. Brothers who speak the same language.
When Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy food, they did not have money to eat. They went to find food but found a brother because Joseph noticed they spoke the same language. Your brothers in the North speak the same language, when in a family you speak the same language. There is also a human hope.
Recently, we have seen a nice thing: the theatrical performance of the prodigal son. The son who had gone, betrayed everyone, and lost everything. At the same moment, with shame and out of necessity, he decided to return. He had to think about how to ask for forgiveness from his father. The Gospel says that his father saw him from afar, because every day he would go up on on the terrace because he was waiting for his son. He embraced him and had a celebration.
This is the celebration that pleases God, when we return to him. In the same way, Jesus told us that heaven will have a celebration just as great for one sinner’s return as there would be for a hundred who remained at home.
Who knows what awaits us in life. Things in life can be really terrible. But, please, do not despair. There is the Father who awaits us. Return and if you are a sinner, the Father will have a celebration.
And you priests, embrace the sinners and be merciful.
It is nice to hear this. It’s beautiful and makes me happy. God never gets tired of forgiving… never gets tired of waiting for us.
I had written three suggestions: pray, the Eucharist, works, works for others, the poor.
It is time for me to go. I look forward to seeing you in these days and speaking to you again when we gather for Holy Mass on Sunday. For now, let us thank the Lord for the blessings of this time together and ask him for the strength to be faithful and joyful, faithful and joyful, witnesses of his love throughout Asia and the entire world.
May Mary, our Mother, watch over you and keep you ever close to Jesus her Son. And from his place in heaven, may Saint John Paul II, who initiated the World Youth Days, always be your guide. With great affection I give you my blessing. [Short blessing in Latin]
And please pray for me, and don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you very much.[Original Script: English] [Improvised Remarks: Italian] [Working translation by ZENIT]