I am very happy to be among and with you today. I feel all the joy and enthusiasm that characterizes your age. I greet and thank your Bishop Luigi Negri for his cordial words of welcome, and to your friend who made himself the interpreter of the thoughts and sentiments of you all, and who has formulated some very serious and important questions. I hope that in the course of this exposition of mine you will also find elements to obtain answers to these questions. I greet affectionately the priests, the nuns, the animators who share with you the path of faith and friendship; and, of course, also your parents, who rejoice in seeing you grow strong in goodness.
Our meeting here in Pennabilli, before this cathedral, heart of the diocese, and in this square, takes us in thought to the numerous and diverse meetings of Jesus that the Gospels narrate to us. Today I would like to recall the famous episode in which the Lord was on his way and one -- a youth -- ran to meet him and, kneeling, posed this question: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). Perhaps we would not say it like that today, but the sense of the question is precisely: What must I do, how must I live to really live, to find life?
Thus, in this question we can see contained the wide and varied human experience, which opens in search of the meaning and of the profound sense of life: How to live? Why live? In fact, the "eternal life" to which that youth of the Gospel makes reference does not only indicate life after death, he does not want to know only how to reach heaven. He wants to know how he must live now so that he can have eternal life. Hence, with this question the young man shows his need to have meaning, plenitude and truth as a part of his daily existence.
Man cannot live without this search for the truth about himself -- who he is and why he should live -- truth that pushes to open the horizon and go beyond the material, not to flee from reality, but to live it in a more truthful way, richer in meaning and hope, and not just in superficiality. And I think that this -- and I have seen and heard it in the words of your friend -- is also your experience. The great questions we have within us are always there, they are always reborn: Who are we? Where do we come from? What are we living for?
And these questions are the highest sign of the transcendence of the human being and of our capacity not to stay on the surface of things. And it is precisely by looking at ourselves with truth, with sincerity and with courage that we intuit not only beauty, but also the precariousness of life, and we feel dissatisfaction, a restlessness that nothing concrete is able to assuage. In the end, all promises often show themselves to be insufficient.
Dear friends, I invite you to be aware of this healthy and positive restlessness, not to fear asking yourselves the fundamental questions about the meaning and value of life. Do not be content with partial, immediate answers, certainly easier at the moment and more comfortable, which can give a moment of happiness, of exaltation, of inebriation, but which do not give the true joy of living, the one born for the one who builds -- as Jesus says -- not on sand but on solid rock. Learn therefore to reflect, to read not superficially but in profundity your human experience: you will discover with surprise and joy, that your heart is a window open to the infinite!
This is man's grandeur and also his difficulty. One of the illusions produced in the course of history is that of thinking that technical-scientific progress, in an absolute way, can give answers and solutions to all of humanity's problems. And we see that it is not like this. In reality, even if it had been possible, nothing and no one would have been able to erase the most profound questions on the meaning of life and of death, on the meaning of suffering, of everything, because these questions are inscribed in the human soul, in our heart, and they surpass the sphere of necessities. Man, also in the era of scientific and technological progress -- which has given us so much -- continues to be a being who desires more, more than comfort and well-being, he continues to be a being open to the whole truth of existence, who cannot stay with material things, but who opens to a much wider horizon.
All this you experience continually every time you ask yourselves: But why? When you contemplate a sunset, or when music moves your heart and mind; when you experience what it means to really love; when you feel strongly the sense of justice and truth, and when you also feel the lack of justice, of truth and of happiness.
Dear young people, human experience is a reality that unites us all, but to the latter several levels of meaning can be given. And it is here where one decides in what way to orient one's life and one chooses to whom to entrust it, to whom one will entrust oneself. The risk is always to remain prisoners in the world of things, of the immediate, of the relative, of the useful, losing the sensibility for what concerns our spiritual dimension. It is not at all about being contemptuous of the use of reason or of rejecting scientific progress. On the contrary, it is, rather, to understand that each one of us is not made only of an "horizontal" dimension, but also includes a "vertical" dimension. Scientific data and technological instruments cannot replace the world of life, the horizons of meaning and of liberty, the richness of relationships of friendship and love.
Dear young people, it is precisely in openness to the whole truth of ourselves and of the world where we perceive God's initiative toward us. He comes to meet every man and makes him know the mystery of his love. In the Lord Jesus, who died for us and has given us the Holy Spirit, we have also been made participants in the very life of God; we belong to the family of God. In Him, in Christ, you can find the answers to the questions that accompany your path, not in a superficial, easy way but walking with Jesus, living with Jesus. The encounter with Christ is not resolved in adherence to a doctrine, to a philosophy, but what He proposes to you is to share his very life, and thus learn to live, to learn what man is, what I am. To that youth, who asked him what he had to do to enter eternal life, namely, to really live, Jesus responds, inviting him to separate himself from his goods and adds, "Come, follow me" (Mark 10:21).
The word of Christ shows that our life finds meaning in the mystery of God, who is Love: an exacting, profound Love that goes beyond superficiality. What would become of your life without that love? God looks after man from creation to the end of time, when he will bring his plan of salvation to fulfillment. In the Risen Lord we have the certainty of our hope. Christ himself, who descended to the depths of death and is resurrected, is hope in person, is the definitive Word pronounced on our history, He is a positive word.
Do not fear to address difficult situations, moments of crisis, the trials of life, because the Lord accompanies you, he is with you. I encourage you to grow in friendship with Him through frequent reading of the Gospel and of the whole of Sacred Scripture, faithful participation in the Eucharist as personal encounter with Christ, commitment within the ecclesial community, your path with a valid spiritual guide. Transformed by the Holy Spirit you will be able to experience genuine liberty, which is so when it is oriented to the good. In this way your life, animated by a continual search for the Lord's face and by the sincere will to give yourselves, will be for many of your contemporaries a sign, an eloquent call to make the desire for plenitude that is in all of us be finally realized in the encounter with the Lord Jesus. Let the mystery of Christ illumine your whole person!
Then you will be able to bring to different environments that novelty that can change relations, institutions, structures to build a more just and solidaristic world, animated by the quest for the common good. Do not yield to individualist and egoistic logics. May you be comforted by the testimony of so many young people who have attained the end of sanctity: think of Therese of the Child Jesus, Saint Dominic Savio, Saint Maria Goretti, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Albert Marvelli -- who is of this land -- and so many others, unknown to us, but who lived their time in the light and strength of the Gospel and who found the answer: how to live, what I must do to live.
As conclusion to this meeting, I wish to entrust each one of you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Like her, may you be able to pronounce and renew your "yes" and always proclaim the greatness of the Lord with your life, because He gives you words of eternal life. Therefore, I encourage you dear ones, in your path of faith and Christian life. I am also always close to you and accompany you with my Blessing. Thank you for your attention!
21 June 2011
Pope to youth: Christ proposes to you his very self
When he spend the weekend in San Marino the Holy Father Benedict XVI addressed a gathering of young people. The text of his address follows, via Zenit, with my emphases: