Wednesday, July 31, 2013

And the Youth Came!

Jesus Christ Overlooking Copacabana Beach
World Youth Day 2013 has come and gone.  World Youth Day is actually more like World Youth Week with many of the world's youths from across the globe travel large distances to attend a several day's long celebration of not only Catholicism, but of Christianity.

It is a time of great anticipation for those in attendance for most have come to be in the presence of the Holy Father even though a vast majority of those in attendance could see him only as a faint white dot in the distance.  Still, to be in his presence, in his immediate vicinity, is an electrifying experience. And, with the charismatic Pope Francis, the electricity must have been great indeed!

The youth came from every continent.  They came from Indonesia, from Australia, from Africa.  There were those from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and all of the countries in Europe.  They came by plane and boat.  Many, who are native to South America came by car.  Nearly every form of transportation known was used in moving the attendees from one part of the planet to Rio de Janeiro.  But why all the interest in traveling to Rio?

Certainly it couldn't have been the weather.  At this time of the year the southern hemisphere is in the middle of  winter.  Not that there were blizzards bombarding the coast of this party town of South America, but the weather was far from hospitable.  There was lots of rain and cold air moving inland from the Atlantic Ocean making things distinctly uncomfortable for the millions who gathered on Copacabana Beach to take in the events.

Was the reason for the long trek to this far away city the Pope?  Certainly, the prospect of seeing the Pope was a large drawing card for many.  And, because this Pope is brand new to the office, curiosity was running high.  Yet, as Francis will tell you, he couldn't have been the main reason.

Was it the prospect of day and night partying?  Probably not for the most part.  One can attend parties anywhere they happen to live.  It certainly is not necessary to travel, in some cases, half way around the world to go to a party.  Usually, young people can find a party in their own back yard without too much trouble, even though the numbers in attendance would be substantially less than those attending in Rio.

Then, why in the world did all those millions of young people save their hard earned money to travel to Rio in the winter time?  It really wasn't for some thing, it was for some one!  Jesus Christ!  Sure, all of the reasons that I have outlined above were factors in drawing so many young people to South America for this event. However, even when you put all the reasons together, the one unmistakable drawing card was the Savior Jesus Christ.  He was the reason for the great party that World Youth Day became.  He was the reason for the joyous celebration.  The faces of the countless young people in attendance reflect just that.  Their joy is in the Lord, not a human being.  Not a human institution.  But in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Youth of the World Celebrate Jesus Christ
And their behavior reflected not only the joy of the moment, but of the great reverence they have for the Son of God. In a gathering this large, it is easy to imagine that over the course of six days, dozens of fights would have broken out.  And while there were most certainly occasional arguments among the youth, there was very little trouble reported. And while I am sure that there was minimal drug use in the midst of the crowd, it was by no means a "South American Woodstock!"  No, the youth of the world gathered together for six days to immerse themselves in their faith.  They came to be with the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, to worship and celebrate with him the reality of the Savior of the World.  Their joy was not in anything man made or conceived.  Their joy was in the Lord!

To the youth of the world, those six days were an affirmation of the reality of the Risen Lord in our world. Satan could not have been pleased with this event.  The love of God for these gathered souls, shone through their joyous celebration of life and their determination to "go and make disciples of all nations."  (Mt 28: 19) Even more than that, the Spirit of the Lord came to dwell in each one of them as is reflected in their smiling faces and youthful enthusiasm for Jesus.  Their zeal for the Christ surely reflected the zeal that two disciples of long ago noted when they turned to each other after realizing that Jesus had just been with them on the road to Emmaus, and said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us...?"  (Lk 24: 32)  Jesus spoke to the youth of the world through the words of Pope Francis, but more importantly, Jesus spoke to them through their love and compassion for one another.  Now, with their hearts ablaze, they return to the "real" world to spread the Good News of the reality of the Risen Lord at work in the world and their lives.  

And shouldn't this be a lesson for those of us who have long since passed our youth?  Shouldn't we learn from the young people of the world that the Lord Jesus Christ is a reality in our world and in our lives.  He is not a myth.  He is not insignificant.  He is not some vague idea to make us somehow happy and hopeful.  He is as real as you and I.  He does live within all who believe.  Given this reality, I should think that all of us who profess a belief in the Son of God as the Messiah, would join in with the youth of the world and spread the joy of the Truth that we have come to know.  And if we were to join the youth, could we not make a big difference in the world?