“You are the salt of the earth!
You are the light of the world!” (Mt 5:13-14)
Dear Young People of the Seventeenth World Youth Day,
1. On a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus’s disciples listened to his gentle and urgent voice; as gentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth and falsehood. The Lord spoke words of life that would echo for ever in the hearts of his followers.
Today he is speaking the same words to you, the young people of Toronto and Ontario, of the whole of Canada, of the United States, of the Caribbean, of Spanish-speaking America and Portuguese-speaking America, of Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Listen to the voice of Jesus in the depths of your hearts! His words tell you who you are as Christians. They tell you what you must do to remain in his love.
2. But Jesus offers one thing, and the “spirit of the world” offers another. In today’s Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus leads us from darkness into light (cf. Eph 5,8). Perhaps the great Apostle is thinking of the light that blinded him, the persecutor of Christians, on the road to Damascus. When later he recovered his sight, nothing was as before. He had been born anew and nothing would ever take his newfound joy away from him.
You too are called to be transformed. “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5, 14), says Saint Paul.
The “spirit of the world” offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.
3. The Lord is calling you to choose between these two voices competing for your souls. That decision is the substance and challenge of World Youth Day. Why have you come together from all parts of the world? To say in your hearts: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Who has the words of eternal life? “You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6,68). Jesus – the intimate friend of every young person – has the words of life.
The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of brotherhood and human solidarity. It is a world which needs to be touched and healed by the beauty and richness of God’s love.It needs witnesses to that love. The world needs salt.
It needs you – to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.