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Receive the Power

Saturday, July 19, 2008
Lately there has been a lot of media interest concerning our young people, their insecurities and fears, and the gangs and violence that are sometimes the result of their longing for love in a troubled world. Newspapers typically concentrate on the negative aspects of youth culture today, so they have largely ignored what the Australian government calls “the largest youth event in the world”. This past week hundreds of thousands of young people have been gathering in Sydney for the 23rd World Youth Day (WYD08), an event that has brought more people to Sydney than the 2000 Olympics did and which presents a positive and encouraging vision for young people today. For Pope Benedict said in his World Youth Day (WYD) message: “only Christ can fulfill the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person. Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its ‘divinization’.”

The young people who have gone to WYD will hopefully discover more profoundly the truth that God is the one for whom our peers long. For those whose humanity is shrunken by fear, Christ our light says: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (Mt 14:27), and he reaches out his hand in the darkness. For those who desire to be loved and to know the shelter of a home, Jesus says “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). For those who seek power and influence, the Lord promises a real power that will last, the Holy Spirit who is the power of divine love. Indeed, the theme for WYD08 is “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

However, as Pope Benedict XVI said last week, WYD is “not just these three or four days, but the entire journey that precedes it and follows it.” It is a stopping point in the pilgrim journey of each of us, and also a gathering of the universal Church in which young people can see “from different points of view and different parts of the world [that] we’re moving forward towards Christ and towards communion.” Since this is what it means to be part of the Church, so, all of us, from anywhere in the world, can also participate in the essence of WYD. We too, through our participation in the sacraments and especially the Eucharist have received the power of the Holy Spirit, and because of God’s Spirit, we are rejuvenated and ever-young.

Therefore, we Christians who have received the Spirit are empowered to be witnesses to the love of God and his grace. This is precisely what troubled young people need today: role models who can inspire them by their witness to a good life that is happier and more fulfilling than anything the world offers. Through the witness of a joyful faith in Christ, hope in God’s promises and love inflamed by the Spirit, we can counteract the despair and violence presented by certain elements of the media, video games and popular culture.

One such role model is the lay Dominican, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (d.1925), whose incorrupt body has been taken to Sydney for the veneration of the youth, and he is the saintly patron of WYD08. Born in 1901 to an agnostic father who owned a liberal newspaper in Milan, Pier combined prayerful piety with an active love for the poor. Rooted in prayer, he also loved politics, sports and the outdoors and he was known for his humour and joie de vivre. His promising life was painfully cut short by polio and he died at the age of 24. As his sister said, “He represented the finest in Christian youth: pure, happy, enthusiastic about everything that is good and beautiful.” To the modern world burdened by cynicism and angst, his holy life offers a brilliant witness: a life rich in meaning, purpose, and peace because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The good life God promises is open to all of us if we are open to God’s free gift of grace and ask the Spirit to “help us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26).

Lawrence Lew OP


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