Read the Pope’s World Youth Day 2011 Homily

FINAL MASS

WORDS OF THE HOLY FATHER
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

Cuatro Vientos Air Base, Madrid
Sunday, 21 August 2011

Dear Young Friends:

I have been thinking a lot about you during this time in which we have been separated.  I hope you have been able to get some sleep in spite of the weather.  I am sure that since dawn you have raised up your eyes more than once, and not only your eyes but above all your hearts, turning this occasion into prayer.  God turns all things into good.  With this confidence and trusting in the Lord who never abandons us, let us begin our Eucharistic celebration, full of enthusiasm and strong in our faith.

***

HOMILY

 Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day.  Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy.  I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you.  Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15).  He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father.  For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received.  Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better.  They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns.  But who is he really?  How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ.  The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion.  When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”.  In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him.  Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”.  Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”.  Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life.  Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation.  So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard.  Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus.   Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

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