Pope prays closing Mass will be new Pentecost; urges youth to open hearts to Spirit’s power.
Pope Benedict XVI prayed that the final Mass of World Youth Day would be like the experience of the Upper Room, and that the young people present would go forth from it to proclaim the Risen Christ.
With this prayer, the Pope concluded his homily at the Mass that drew to a close the 23rd World Youth Day.
The Pontiff got a sense of the size of the crowd when he flew over Randwick Racecourse in a helicopter earlier in the day – some 225,000 of the congregation slept under the stars on Saturday night after a vigil with the Holy Father.
Before the Mass, Benedict XVI greeted a part of the crowd from the popemobile.
Under the bright Sydney sun, Benedict XVI told the youth: “May the fire of God’s love descend to fill your hearts, unite you ever more fully to the Lord and his Church, and send you forth, a new generation of apostles, to bring the world to Christ!”
The Holy Father explained to the youth what the power of the Holy Spirit is: “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.”
Benedict XVI referred to the Gospel of Luke read at the Mass, where Jesus proclaims that a new age has begun, in which the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all humanity.
“Here in Australia, … all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the beauty of nature,” the Pope said.
“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!”
“Yet this power,” the Holy Father continued, “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.”
With solemnity, the Pontiff then said to the youth, “Let me now ask you a question.”
He asked: “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?”
“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,” the Bishop of Rome affirmed.
“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,” he urged, “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.”
The world and the Church need this renewal, Benedict XVI affirmed.
“The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people,” he said. “She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness.
“Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
“Do not be afraid to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!”
The Pope concluded asking for Mary’s prayer: “Through the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, may this 23rd World Youth Day be experienced as a new Upper Room, from which all of us, burning with the fire and love of the Holy Spirit, go forth to proclaim the Risen Christ and to draw every heart to him! Amen.”