World Youth Day happens every year. Often, we only hear about the international WYDs, like the most recent one that happened in Sydney, Australia. The event is international every three years, but in the years between, the youth are not forgotten. During those years, WYD happens on the diocesan level, in which some dioceses make a bigger deal of it than others. I recently stumbled across Pope Benedict's message for the youth on the occasion of WYD 2010, which apparently happened back in March (I missed that one!).
The theme for WYD 2010 was the line of the young man in Mark's gospel, who, upon meeting Christ, asks him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Pope Benedict's message to youth unpacks this Gospel story, which just so happens to fit nicely with our theme for the year (To Know and To Love). I encourage all of you to take some time to read and reflect upon this post, and maybe even read Pope Benedict's full message (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/youth/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20100222_youth_en.html).
By the way, the Pope wears red shoes...
Okay, back on topic...Here is the Gospel story the Pope reflects upon:
“As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey” – the Gospel of Saint Mark tells us – “a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honour your father and your mother.’ He replied and said to him, ‘Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth’. Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’. At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mk 10: 17-22).
This story hits the highs and lows, right? The young man is like, "Dude, I do all of this stuff! Isn't that great!" That is definitely a high. But, Christ calls him to something more. He calls the man to live his life as a unity. Christ challenges the man to follow him entirely, not just in certain areas, or compartments of his life. This would appear to be the low point of the story that leaves us depressed and hopeless that we could ever live this life. "But not so!" says the good Pope, upon further reflection. Check out what Pope Benedict has to say about this:
"Christ interrupted his journey to stop and answer the young man’s question. He gave his full attention to this youth who was moved with an ardent desire to speak to the “good Teacher” and to learn from him how to journey through life."
What an excellent starting point. Instead of feeling down about this interaction, let's look at what actually transpired. As the young man approaches, Jesus stops and focuses His entire attention upon him. What a phenomenal example to us, who often think that our concerns are too petty to be brought to the feet of Jesus.
Pope Benedict goes on to point out some very curious words from the passage, "In his Gospel account, Saint Mark emphasizes that 'Jesus, looking at him, loved him' (Mk 10: 21). The Lord’s gaze is at the heart of this very special encounter and the whole Christian experience. To be sure, Christianity is not primarily a moral code. It is an experience of Jesus Christ who loves each of us personally, young and old, poor and rich. He loves us even when we turn away from him."
Herein lies the key for understanding this passage. Jesus wants more than my upholding of the moral code, more than my fear of breaking the moral code, he wants more than my correct answer. He wants me, my heart, completely and without reservation. He wants me not just on Sunday nights at Youth Group, or in religion class at school, but in every area of my life, at all times.
The encounter with Christ is an event that, if truly an event, is meant to be lived.
Benedict furthers this by saying, "In this love we find the source of all Christian life and the basic reason for evangelization: if we have really encountered Jesus, we cannot help but bear witness to him before those who have not yet met his gaze!"
May we all find strength in these words to live the challenge of the Christian life.
I promised a drawing for 2 Graeter's gift cards on Friday. Everyone who is a follower has been entered. Those of you who posted a comment have a second entry....and the winners are: Paul & Mary Schneider, and Alex Parra! I'll get you the gift cards on Sunday.