Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Be "the first missionaries among people of your own age!" Bring the Gospel to "digital continent" and to those who travel for studies, work or pleasure, or have to emigrate, said Pope Benedict XVI in the missionary message he entrusted in young people ahead of the next World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro next July.
The message is a meditation on the meeting's theme. 'Go and make disciples of all nations' (cf. Mt, 28:19) "is the great missionary mandate that Christ gave the whole Church, and today, two thousand years later, it remains as urgent as ever." For this reason, it is at the centre of the year of preparation of the World Youth Day, which is also the Year of Faith.
"History," the pope writes, "shows how many young people, by their generous gift of self, made a great contribution to the Kingdom of God and the development of this world by proclaiming the Gospel. Filled with enthusiasm, they brought the Good News of God's Love made manifest in Christ; they used the means and possibilities then available, which were far inferior to those we have today. One example which comes to mind is Blessed José de Anchieta. He was a young Spanish Jesuit of the sixteenth century who went as a missionary to Brazil before he was twenty years old and became a great apostle of the New World. But I also think of those among yourselves who are generously devoted to the Church's mission. I saw a wonderful testimony of this at World Youth Day in Madrid, particularly at the meeting with volunteers."
The invitation to become missionaries, the message says, "remains timely. We are passing through a very particular period of history. Technical advances have given us unprecedented possibilities for interaction between people and nations. But the globalization of these relationships will be positive and help the world to grow in humanity only if it is founded on love rather than on materialism. Love is the only thing that can fill hearts and bring people together. God is love. When we forget God, we lose hope and become unable to love others. That is why it is so necessary to testify to God's presence so that others can experience it. The salvation of humanity depends on this, as well as the salvation of each of us."
However, the "missionary vocation" is also necessary for a personal quest of faith. "When you proclaim the Gospel, you yourselves grow as you become more deeply rooted in Christ and mature as Christians. Missionary commitment is an essential dimension of faith. We cannot be true believers if we do not evangelize."
"Evangelization always begins with an encounter with the Lord Jesus. Those who come to Jesus, and have experienced his love, immediately want to share the beauty of the meeting and the joy born of his friendship." Indeed, "Go forth! Christ needs you too. Let yourselves be caught up and drawn along by his love. Be at the service of this immense love, so it can reach out to everyone, especially to those "far away". Some people are far away geographically, but others are far away because their way of life has no place for God. Some people have not yet personally received the Gospel, while others have been given it, but live as if God did not exist. Let us open our hearts to everyone. Let us enter into conversation in simplicity and respect. If this conversation is held in true friendship, it will bear fruit."
"I would like to emphasize two areas where your missionary commitment is all the more necessary. Dear young people, the first is the field of social communications, particularly the world of the internet. As I mentioned to you on another occasion: "I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. [...] It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent'," (Message for the 43rd World Communications Day, 24 May 2009). Learn how to use these media wisely. Be aware of the hidden dangers they contain, especially the risk of addiction, of confusing the real world with the virtual, and of replacing direct and personal encounters and dialogue with internet contacts."
"The second area is that of travel and migration. Nowadays more and more young people travel, sometimes for their studies or work, and at other times for pleasure. I am also thinking of the movements of migration which involve millions of people, very often young, who go to other regions or countries for financial or social reasons. Here too we can find providential opportunities for sharing the Gospel. Dear young people, do not be afraid to witness to your faith in these settings. It is a precious gift for those you meet when you communicate the joy of an encounter with Christ."
Communication can be difficult, but bearing witness of one's life with conviction is fundamental. "Evangelization is not our initiative, and it does not depend on our talents. It is a faithful and obedient response to God's call and so it is not based on our power but on God's." Proclaiming the word of God "is born of prayer and sustained by prayer. We must first speak with God in order to be able to speak about God."
Strong faith and certainty that "Christ is at your side in every trial" are particularly important in those regions of the world where "some of you suffer from the fact that you cannot bear public witness to your faith in Christ due to the lack of religious freedom. Some have already paid with their lives the price of belonging to the Church.
In ending his message, the pope expressed gratitude "for the great gift of missionaries, who devote themselves completely to proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth."
"I also give thanks," he writes, "for all those lay men and women who do their best to live their daily lives as mission wherever they find themselves, at home or at work, so that Christ will be loved and served and that the Kingdom of God will grow. I think especially of all those who work in the fields of education, health care, business, politics and finance, and in the many other areas of the lay apostolate. Christ needs your commitment and your witness. Let nothing-whether difficulties or lack of understanding-discourage you from bringing the Gospel of Christ wherever you find yourselves! Each of you is a precious piece in the great mosaic of evangelization!"