APOSTOLIC VISIT TO TORONTO,
17th WORLD YOUTH DAY
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
Toronto, Downsview Park, Sunday July 28, 2002
"You are the salt of the earth!
Dear Young People of the Seventeenth World Youth Day,
1. On a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus's disciples listened to his gentle and urgent voice; as gentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth and falsehood. The Lord spoke words of life that would echo for ever in the hearts of his followers.
2. But Jesus offers one thing, and the "spirit of the world" offers another. In today's Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus leads us from darkness into light (cf. Eph 5,8). Perhaps the great Apostle is thinking of the light that blinded him, the persecutor of Christians, on the road to Damascus. When later he recovered his sight, nothing was as before. He had been born anew and nothing would ever take his new-found joy away from him.
You too are called to be transformed. "Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light" (Eph 5, 14), says Saint Paul.
The "spirit of the world" offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people's souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.
The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of brotherhood and human solidarity. It is a world which needs to be touched and healed by the beauty and richness of God's love. It needs witnesses to that love. The world needs salt. It needs you - to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Salt seasons and improves the flavour of food. Following Jesus, you have to change and improve the "taste" of human history. With your faith, hope and love, with your intelligence, courage and perseverance, you have to humanize the world we live in, in the way that today's Reading from Isaiah indicates: "loose the bonds of injustice ... share your bread with the hungry ... remove the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil.... Then your light shall rise in the darkness" (Is 58,6-10).
Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.
6. I finish with a prayer.
O Lord Jesus Christ, keep these young people in your love. Let them hear your voice and believe what you say, for you alone have the words of life.
Teach them how to profess their faith, bestow their love, and impart their hope to others.
Make them convincing witnesses to your Gospel in a world so much in need of your saving grace.
Make them the new people of the Beatitudes, that they may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium!
Mary, Mother of the Church, protect and guide these young men and women of the Twenty-first Century. Keep us all close to your maternal heart. Amen.
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