São Paulo (AsiaNews) – Youth should not be “squandered” but lived with joy and responsibility to give meaning to life, because “we are, so to speak, the work of our own hands”. It is by behaving in a way that is inspired by Christianity that young people will avoid falling prey to the materialism and secularism of our age, and will instead learn how to become free protagonists of a more just and fraternal society, in which values like marriage, the family, solidarity, the elderly and nature are respected.
The address given this evening by Benedict XVI to 70,000 youth who filled the “Paulo Machado de Carvalho” Stadium of Pacaembu, in São Paulo in Brazil, was long and flowing. The youth, for their part, filled the stadium and adjacent streets travelled by the pope with warmth, cheers and enthusiasm. There were choreographed dances and singing, groups that were clusters of white, yellow and blue, depending on the tops worn, gathered around the big altar in the shape of a large white dove shining brightly with lights. The evening was fresh; the clouds that rained in the morning had cleared by the time, and the maxi-screens showed pictures of the country’s splendid nature.
Dedicated to the theme “Youth, disciple and missionary of Jesus Christ”, the meeting gave Benedict XVI an opportunity, as he commented on the Gospel passage of the rich young man, to point out to young people the things in which to believe and the values to follow, and also to prompt them to learn to be “witnesses” – “Witness”, he said, “is more valid than science” – among their peers and in all society.
“You can be the builders of a new society,” he said, “if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation. Men and women who are ill-prepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels. Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a centre that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done.”
And the Pope expanded this perspective further: “There exists, in the final analysis, an immense panorama of action in which questions of a social, economic and political nature take on particular importance, as long as they draw their inspiration from the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church. This includes building a more just and fraternal society, reconciled and at peace, it includes the commitment to reduce violence, initiatives to promote the fullness of life, the democratic order and the common good and especially initiatives aimed at eliminating certain forms of discrimination existing” for the sake of “mutual enrichment”.
The reasoning of Benedict XVI started out from the question posed by the rich young man of the Gospel: “What must I do to have eternal life?” This, in the words of the pope, “does not regard only the future. It does not regard only a question about what will happen after death. On the contrary, it exists as a task in the present, in the ‘here’ and ‘now’, which must guarantee authenticity and consequently the future. In short, the young man’s question raises the issue of life’s meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted? Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore, can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness.”
It is from this conviction, to be matured and deepened, but above all, to be lived, that Benedict XVI drew the “witness” of a way of life that is not sanctioned by that of a consumerist society. From here, for example, came the call to “respect” marriage. About this, he said: “There cannot be true domestic happiness unless, at the same time, there is fidelity between spouses. Marriage is an institution of natural law, which has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament; it is a great gift that God has given to mankind: respect it and honour it. At the same time, God calls you to respect one another when you fall in love and become engaged, since conjugal life, reserved by divine ordinance to married couples, will bring happiness and peace only to the extent that you are able to build your future hopes upon chastity, both within and outside marriage.”
In conclusion, he said: “The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships. They should remember that excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others; there are no valid motives that would justify attempting to impose one’s own worldly aspirations – economic or political – through fraud and deceit.”
Thus ended the second day of the visit of Benedict XVI to Brazil. In the morning, the pope went to pay a courtesy call to the President of the Republic, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at Palacio dos Bandeirantes of São Paulo. Later, he received, at the Monastery of São Bento, his residence in the city, representatives of other Christian denominations and religions.