It is necessary to follow a path of spiritual and apostolic preparation if we really wish that the fruits of World Youth Day Rio 2013 mature and change our lives. We must navigate an itinerary of prayer and work so the words of the Holy Father, the Pope, and the renewing encounter in Christ and with our brothers and sisters from around the whole world can give us the fruits of everlasting life. If we are not paying attention, we can easily become part of the crowd that yelled “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday and then “Crucify him!” on Good Friday.
I wish to make pilgrimage with you and, therefore, I would like to propose a brief reflection on the theme of the first World Youth Day: “Always be prepared to respond to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt 3:15).
The date chosen by Blessed John Paul II in 1986 when all the dioceses of the world held the first World Youth Day was March 23, a Palm Sunday.
In reading the invitation of Saint Peter to give reasons for our faith, the first thing that we think of is how to defend our faith against those that try to harm it. We think of an apologetics of the faith, which consists simply in debates and discussions to demonstrate the truth. This is type of mission is necessary and important, without a doubt, but it should be carried out with love for the people whom God loves.
Nevertheless, many times we forget that the first and fundamental mission and apologetics that we can and must do is to give witness to our faith by way of example. A young person of true Catholic identity is the one who shows, even in the smallest day-to-day tasks, the breath of Divine grace. A Catholic youth is happy and enthusiastic, capable of listening to everyone and talking about the vivacity of Christ. They support and help out the family at home, and at school they study hard, respect their teachers and are courteous with all the school’s staff. In playing sports, they are a true sign of charity and harmony. With a girlfriend or boyfriend, they take all the means necessary to live such an important stage of life with holiness. They are also able to view with the eyes of the faith social, family, and psychological problems as well as the various difficulties that come around in life.
Let us not be fooled by the enemy, because the devil watches and tempts us. Apologetics necessarily assumes a personal faith life, or else it is completely empty. Truth without charity turns into a lie because it does not respect the other as a creature beloved and dear to God. Christ gave us many lessons about this. “Reject the sin, but not the sinner” is a completely Gospel phrase. Wanting to pull out the weeds, many times we can uproot a good seed as well.
Charity without faith is false, since only in truth exists real charity, in a Christian and Gospel sense. Therefore, it is important to leave behind any childishness in faith. This happens when we commit the injustice of wanting to face the questions of the world while still having only a child’s formation. This shows us the importance of the Year of Faith requested by Pope Benedict XVI for the upcoming year.
It’s sad to realize that there are so many excellent Catholic professionals with high-level educations and specializations which their fields demand, but who nonetheless have a rickety, malnourished catechetical formation. It is a tremendous injustice against the Church and against Christ.
So, what is there to do? We can’t just stand around with our arms crossed. We have to share the good news of Christ with all creation. And there is no better way of doing that than through acts of love, dedication, good works and giving.
What is needed is an ‘intelligence of the faith’. The Church possesses over two thousand years of history and tradition. It bears a unique humanistic, cultural, philosophical and theological heritage. We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Catechism. We have the Church Fathers. The papal encyclicals, the council documents. It is necessary to know how to give reasons for our faith, but for this it is necessary to study it and to refine our knowledge of it more and more.
Our faith is not merely feeling or just the invention of a group of pious men. There exists rationality in the faith. And in Catholicism, this intelligence of the faith has a density such that it would be a sin of omission not to familiarize yourself with it and study it.
Let us take the first words of the gospel by Saint John. What can we find there? “In the beginning was Word” (Jn 1:1). One of the great questions that moved the minds of the Greek philosophers had to do with the origin and foundation of all things. Why do things exist? What is their foundation? John presents Christ as the Word, the foundation of all the things the Greeks throughout the centuries were searching for. Christ is the true “Logos”; He is the Reason. In Christianity, Christ is the Reason incarnate.
The words of the evangelist are so very beautiful that they should fill our hearts with joy and enthusiasm for our faith. It is not irrational or merely feeling. It is the sense and the reason for being of all things. Let us not carry in our souls any feeling of inferiority. Let us not allow ourselves to be seduced by empty intellectualism. Know the faith that you profess.
Prepare yourself well for World Youth Day Rio 2013 by way of a truly Christian life, that you may be salt and light and be able to attract everyone with the beauty of your words and actions. Prepare yourself by knowing more deeply the doctrine and the tradition of the Church. There is always a motive and a reason for the Church to defend a certain position. Before you criticize it, seek to know the reasons why. We should live our faith with all our being, with our soul, with our intelligence and with our heart. The Church offered the youth in Madrid a catechism adapted for their own way of speaking and gave all participants at that World Youth Day a version in their own language.
To give reasons for our faith, above all, is to live Christianity full-time, in every aspect of our lives. It makes me very happy to see the many groups of young people that use the Internet for Christian formation. Congratulations for your initiative! I also congratulate all the youth who are taking seriously their preparation for World Youth Day through prayer meetings, reflection, sharing and mission work. I am cheering all of you on as you continue along this path, which can only enrich your lives.
May Christ, the Logos incarnate, illuminate us so that we can in our daily lives give reasons for our hope.
† Orani João Tempesta, O. Cist.
Metropolitan Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, RJ
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