More than 200,000 pilgrims gathered at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney for the World Youth Day 2008 Vigil with Pope Benedict XVI. This is an edited version of his homily on that evening of July 19
ONCE again this evening we have heard Christ’s great promise – “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”. And we have heard his summons – “be my witnesses throughout the world” (Acts 1:8).
These were the very last words which Jesus spoke before his Ascension into heaven. How the Apostles felt upon hearing them, we can only imagine.
But we do know that their deep love for Jesus, and their trust in his word, prompted them to gather and to wait; to wait not aimlessly, but together, united in prayer, with the women and Mary in the Upper Room (cf.
Tonight, we do the same. Gathered before our much-travelled Cross and the icon of Mary, and under the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross, we pray.
I am praying for you and for young people throughout the world. Accept into your hearts and minds the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit!
Recognise and believe in the power of the Spirit in your lives!
Tonight we focus our attention on “how” to become witnesses. We need to understand the person of the Holy Spirit and his vivifying presence in our lives.
This is not easy to comprehend. Yet we do know that it is the Holy Spirit who, though silent and unseen, gives direction and definition to our witness to Jesus Christ.
What is our response, as Christian witnesses, to a divided and fragmented world?
Unity and reconciliation cannot be achieved through our efforts alone. God has made us for one another (cf. Gen 2:24) and only in God and his Church can we find the unity we seek.
It is the Spirit who guides the Church in the way of all truth and unifies her in communion and in the works of ministry. (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4)
Unity is of the essence of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 813); it is a gift we must recognise and cherish.
Let us pray for the resolve to nurture unity: contribute to it!
Resist any temptation to walk away! For it is precisely the comprehensiveness, the vast vision, of our faith – solid yet open, consistent yet dynamic, true yet constantly growing in insight – that we can offer our world.
From the forlorn child in a Darfur camp, or a troubled teenager, or an anxious parent in any suburb, or perhaps even now from the depth of your own heart, there emerges the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity.
Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit!
This is the Spirit’s role: to bring Christ’s work to fulfilment.
Enriched with the Spirit’s gifts, you will have the power to move beyond the piecemeal, the hollow utopia, the fleeting, to offer the consistency and certainty of Christian witness!
When reciting the Creed we state: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life”.
The “Creator Spirit” is the power of God giving life to all creation and the source of new and abundant life in Christ.
The Spirit sustains the Church in union with the Lord and in fidelity to the apostolic Tradition.
He inspired the Sacred Scriptures and he guides God’s People into the fullness of truth. (cf. Jn 16:13)
In all these ways the Spirit is the “giver of life”, leading us into the very heart of God. So, the more we allow the Spirit to direct us, the more perfect will be our configuration to Christ and the deeper our immersion in the life of the Triune God.
This sharing in God’s nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4) occurs in the unfolding of the everyday moments of our lives where he is always present. (cf. Bar 3:38)
God is with us in the reality of life, not the fantasy! It is embrace, not escape, that we seek! So the Holy Spirit gently but surely steers us back to what is real, what is lasting, what is true.
The gifts of the Spirit are neither prizes nor rewards. They are freely given. (cf. 1 Cor 12:11) And they require only one response on the part of the receiver: I accept!
Here we sense something of the deep mystery of being Christian. What constitutes our faith is not primarily what we do but what we receive.
The Spirit’s gifts working within us give direction and definition to our witness. Directed to unity, the gifts of the Spirit bind us more closely to the whole Body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11), equipping us better to build up the Church in order to serve the world. (cf. Eph 4:13)
They call us to active and joyful participation in the life of the Church: in parishes and ecclesial movements, in religious education classes, in university chaplaincies and other Catholic organisations.
Turn to the Holy Spirit and you will find the true meaning of renewal.
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: he is the artisan of God’s works. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 741)
Let his gifts shape you!
Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life.
Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art.
Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the sacraments, and thus be a source of inspiration and help to those around you.
In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success.
To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God’s love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations.
Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness!
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.