Pope Benedict XVI addressed more than 400,000 people at the Final Mass of World Youth Day 2008 at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on July 20. This is an edited version of his homily in which he speaks to young people especially about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit
“YOU will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (Acts 1:8) We have seen this promise fulfilled!
On the day of Pentecost, the Risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father, sent the Spirit upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room.
In the power of that Spirit, Peter and the Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
In every age, and in every language, the Church throughout the world continues to proclaim the marvels of God and to call all nations and peoples to faith, hope and new life in Christ.
In these days I too have come, as the Successor of St Peter, to this magnificent land of Australia.
I have come to confirm you, my young brothers and sisters, in your faith and to encourage you to open your hearts to the power of Christ’s Spirit and the richness of his gifts.
I pray that this great assembly, which unites young people “from every nation under heaven” (cf. Acts 2:5), will be a new Upper Room.
May the fire of God’s love descend to fill your hearts, unite you ever more fully to the Lord and his Church, and send you forth, a new generation of apostles, to bring the world to Christ!
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you”. These words of the Risen Lord are addressed to each of us – to all those who have received the Spirit’s gift of reconciliation and new life at Baptism, who have welcomed him into their hearts as their helper and guide at Confirmation, and who daily grow in his gifts of grace through the Holy Eucharist.
At each Mass, in fact, the Holy Spirit descends anew, invoked by the solemn prayer of the Church, not only to transform our gifts of bread and wine into the Lord’s body and blood, but also to transform our lives, to make us, in his power, “one body, one spirit in Christ”.
But what is this “power” of the Holy Spirit? It is the power of God’s life!
It is the power of the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation and who, in the fullness of time, raised Jesus from the dead.
It is the power which points us, and our world, towards the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus himself came among us to bring us the Holy Spirit.
As the source of our new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit is also, in a very real way, the soul of the Church, the love which binds us to the Lord and one another, and the light which opens our eyes to see all around us the wonders of God’s grace.
Here in Australia, this “great south land of the Holy Spirit”, all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the beauty of nature.
Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: “charged”, as the poet says, “with the grandeur of God”, filled with the glory of his creative love.
Here too, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the life of the Church.
We have seen the Church for what she truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord.
The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life!
Through the grace of the Church’s sacraments, that power also flows deep within us, like an underground river which nourishes our spirit and draws us ever nearer to the source of our true life, which is Christ.
The grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift.
God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age.
Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church.
Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, to our heavenly Father.
In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive “power from on high”, enabling us to be salt and light for our world.
At his Ascension, the Risen Lord told his disciples: “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Here, in Australia, let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith, which has come down to us like a treasure passed on from generation to generation in the communion of the Church.
Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation?
Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom?
How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you?
What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?
The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future, to the coming of God’s Kingdom.
What a magnificent vision of a humanity redeemed and renewed we see in the new age promised by today’s Gospel!
St Luke tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God’s promises, the Messiah who fully possesses the Holy Spirit in order to bestow that gift upon all mankind.
The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us.
It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity. (cf. Lk 4:18-19; Is 61:1-2)
This power can create a new world: it can “renew the face of the earth”! (cf. Ps 104:30)
Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed.
A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty.
A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships.
Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.
The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.
This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God.
It reveals humanity’s sublime calling, which is to find fulfillment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.
The Church also needs this renewal! She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that she can always be young in the Spirit! (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4)
The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power!
I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
Do not be afraid to say “yes” to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!
Through the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, may this 23rd World Youth Day be experienced as a new Upper Room, from which all of us, burning with the fire and love of the Holy Spirit, go forth to proclaim the Risen Christ and to draw every heart to him! Amen.
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