By Sylvia Defendi
Not everyone can draw a crowd of 5000 and leave another 200 outside begging security to be let in.
Yet for Christopher West who wooed youth at a recent forum on July 17 at Sydney’s Entertainment Centre this was just standard operating procedure.
West spoke to WYD pilgrims on Pope Benedict’s teachings on Erotic and Divine Love, following a much-anticipated forum on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body the previous day.
In his own words, West just scratched the surface of some of the major themes expressed in the Pontiff’s first Encyclical – God is Love – and left crowds spellbound.
West began his speech to pilgrims by defining Agape – God’s love for the Church and Eros – sexual love between husband and wife.
“Our religion is all about the body,” West continued, “the word made flesh, ‘eat my flesh, drink my blood’ – Our God took on a human body to redeem our bodies,” he said.
Contrary to contemporary world views West challenged youth to stop viewing human beings as merely a spirit trapped in a body.
“The counterfeit world wants you to think the person is something other than the body. But we don’t have a body – we are a body,” he said, adding that it is when the body is viewed as something other than part of the human being that it becomes easy to use, abuse and distort the body.
Returning to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, West demonstrated to youth that it is in the erotic union of husband and wife that a married couple mirror Agape, or God’s love for the Church.
“This Pope is telling us that God’s love for us is not only Agape but also Eros. We are told to keep God out of the bedroom, but God’s Agape love comes to us in a bodily way, in a human way,” West explained, adding that only the body is capable of revealing our spiritual self.
West challenged youth to question everything and used the popular 90s film The Truman Show to illustrate the difficulties faced in contemporary society.
“Truman is a ‘true man’ searching for the truth in a counterfeit world like many of us. Yet when the creator of the ‘Truman Show,’ is asked why it is taking Truman so long to discover his world is completely fake, Christoff answers: ‘We accept the reality of the world with which we are given, it’s a simple as that,” he said.
“If we question everything with a sincere heart we are on the path to the Eucharist, but first we need to face our fears,” West told the audience.
Much like Truman, West said that the search for truth was painful and that instead of giving into numbing agents such as sex and alcohol, the youth of today had to learn that pain was instructive.
“Have the courage to take the numbing agents out of your life and that pain will let you find the truth,” he said adding that one of the biggest numbing agents in contemporary culture was noise.
“When it is quiet we can hear God speak to us. We need the courage and openness to let God in and the silence to hear what he is telling us,” he said.
While West’s speech to youth primarily focused on the vocation to married life, he also explained to youth the similarity between married life and the vows taken as a consecrated religious.
Concluding his speech West told the story of a Carmelite nun who after speaking at a conference on the Eros and Agape of God’s love for humanity was confronted by an agnostic.
“He told her she was sick, and said ‘what you really want is sex but you disguise it with all this love of God,’ she refused and replied ‘what the world really wants is union with God but it keeps disguising it with all this sex.”