Homily for Mass - World Youth Day XXIIIPOPE BENEDICT XVI
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" (Acts 1:8).
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" (Acts 1:8). We have seen this promise fulfilled! On the day of Pentecost, as we heard in the first reading, the Risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father, sent the Spirit upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. In the power of that Spirit, Peter and the Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In every age, and in every language, the Church throughout the world continues to proclaim the marvels of God and to call all nations and peoples to faith, hope and new life in Christ.
But what is this "power" of the Holy Spirit? It is the power of God's life! It is the power of the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation and who, in the fullness of time, raised Jesus from the dead. It is the power which points us, and our world, towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. In today's Gospel, Jesus proclaims that a new age has begun, in which the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all humanity (cf. Lk 4:21). He himself, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, came among us to bring us that Spirit. As the source of our new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit is also, in a very real way, the soul of the Church, the love which binds us to the Lord and one another, and the light which opens our eyes to see all around us the wonders of God's grace.
Here in Australia, this "great south land of the Holy Spirit", all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit's presence and power in the beauty of nature. Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: "charged", as the poet says, "with the grandeur of God", filled with the glory of his creative love. Here too, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirit's presence and power in the life of the Church. We have seen the Church for what she truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord. The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life! Through the grace of the Church's sacraments, that power also flows deep within us, like an underground river which nourishes our spirit and draws us ever nearer to the source of our true life, which is Christ. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who died a martyr in Rome at the beginning of the second century, has left us a splendid description of the Spirit's power dwelling within us. He spoke of the Spirit as a fountain of living water springing up within his heart and whispering: "Come, come to the Father" (cf. Ad Rom., 6:1-9).
Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit
or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God's love can only unleash
its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let
it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual
weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then
can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires.
That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the
quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical
prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God's
grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us,
leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In
the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly
waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his
love, and to receive "power from on high", enabling us to be salt and light for our world.
Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the "power" which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make? The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future, to the coming of God's Kingdom. What a magnificent vision of a humanity redeemed and renewed we see in the new age promised by today's Gospel! Saint Luke tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God's promises, the Messiah who fully possesses the Holy Spirit in order to bestow that gift upon all mankind. The outpouring of Christ's Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity (cf. Lk 4:18-19; Is 61:1-2). This power can create a new world: it can "renew the face of the earth" (cf. Ps 104:30)!
Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith's rich vision, a new
generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which
God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished - not rejected,
feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy
or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others,
respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and
beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness,
apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our
relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be
prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the
Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.
In a few moments, we will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit will descend upon the confirmands; they will be "sealed" with the gift of the Spirit and sent forth to be Christ's witnesses. What does it mean to receive the "seal" of the Holy Spirit? It means being indelibly marked, inalterably changed, a new creation. For those who have received this gift, nothing can ever be the same! Being "baptized" in the one Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13) means being set on fire with the love of God. Being "given to drink" of the Spirit means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lord's plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others. Being "sealed with the Spirit" means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love.
As we pray for the confirmands, let us ask that the power of the Holy Spirit will revive the grace of our own Confirmation. May he pour out his gifts in abundance on all present, on this city of Sydney, on this land of Australia and on all its people! May each of us be renewed in the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God's presence!
Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Mass for the XXIII World Youth Day, Randwick Racecourse 20 July, 2008
Photo: AP/Rob Griffith
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