Homily for young people at the European 'Confronto' celebrating
Don Bosco's birthday
My dear young people,
brothers and sisters in the Salesian Family,
1. The first thing I would like to say to you is:
“Rejoice in the Lord, always” (Phil. 4:4). This invitation that we hear every time we celebrate the memorial of Don Bosco resounds even more convincingly and vibrantly today.
“The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5). Indeed he is present, alive, in our midst since the Incarnation of his Son and full of life and the power to save in virtue of the Resurrection.
Songs of joy surrounded Jesus' birth, signalling the beginning of our era. His Easter was a proclamation of joy, victory over death and guarantee of freedom from all evil.
Joy always gives rise to gratitude and flows from it, because life is a gift wrapped in love, from beginning to end. History tells us this: The larger history of the world, made fruitful by saints and sages, courageous witnesses, quiet doers of good; but also your own smaller, personal story.
The entire story of humanity, including its darker and more tragic pages, and those that have thrown God's existence into doubt, speaks of God's ongoing love through so many people who have been involved, in his name, in efforts of justice and peace, civilisation and salvation, and making the world a better place.
Gathered here as Salesian youth, we are moved by the memory of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Salesian Congregation and Salesian Family: in joy and with gratitude! And now we are moving quickly forward to celebrate the bicentenary of our beloved father and founder. Here, in 1815, one 16th August like today, John Bosco first saw the light of day. If we now look around the world we can contemplate the network of works which have arisen in his name and the multitude of young people who find they are at home in them, and there find friendship and direction in life.
But go back over, I was saying, even if only rapidly, your young existence. Joy and gratitude flow forth as if from an inner spring: because you have life, because you were prepared for a happy encounter with Jesus, because you have had the gift of Christian Faith, because you can freely express it with your characteristic liveliness, in ecclesial communion.
You are key players in this beautiful story, both the larger one and the personal one, with Jesus at its origins; you share with so many other people the yearning for freedom, human dignity, brotherhood, peace!
Today, Don Bosco, in these places he knew as a boy, encourages you to discover and run the way that leads you from these aspirations to the fullness of joy.
- This is a jubilee year for us, one which opens the door to proximate preparation for the bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth. So we are being invited to go through this door: it is a sign containing a message. By crossing the threshold trhough this door we enter the Temple, that space where we more clearly sense God's presence. We are also entering the assembly of the Christian community celebrating as one the marvels wrought by God, praising his greatness, thanking him for his mercy, taking strength from him to give themselves in service to humankind.
- The door also has a more personal meaning, one which interests each of you: it is the threshold across which God and our brothers and sisters can enter into our hearts, our plans, our goods.
Our door can be open like Mary's was: she welcomed the Lord's invitation and said “behold, the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38); she was moved by her cousin Elizabeth's moment of need, and “set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country" far away (Lk 1:39); she showed her concern at Cana, getting things moving so the feast could continue (Jn 2: 3.5); and beside the cross she showed her motherly availability by receiving from Jesus all of us entrusted to her : “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26).
The door could also, of course, remain closed, because we are attached to our goods (cf. Lk 18:22-23), because disorder reigns in our lives (cf. Lk 12:29), because distraction and noise make it difficult to “understand what is happening around us (Lk 12:56), because ambition prevents us from making room for generous plans (cf. Lk 14:7-14).
From this hill where John Bosco had his dream – which guided his life, he tells you: “Open your lives up to the great dream that God has for each one of you: holiness!”.
This is the goal which our late-lamented John Paul II called you to, when he wrote in his message for the World Youth Day in 2000:
Dear young people….. from every continent; have no fear of being saints of the new millennium!Be contemplatives and people who love prayer; be consistent in your faith and generous in service of your brothers and sisters, active members of the Church and builders of peace.”.
Aim no lower than this!
Trust in God's grace, in the happiness his offer will give you and in the Spirit dwelling within you. You will not be the first to allow yourselves to be drawn by the desire for holiness: this is in fact a feature of the Movement which you belong to. It has been like that from its beginnings thanks to the sense of God and boundless charity that inspired Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello. After them young people have known how to intertwine youthful vitality and generous response to God, in a marvellous way.
This place still embraces the images of that luminous day when John Paul II proclaimed the holiness of Laura Vicuña amidst the songs and applause of the young.
3. What is the door we use to enter and explore that marvellous life-space dreamed up by God and Jesus?
“I am the gate” (Jn 10:7): Jesus' declaration. We can enter into the mystery of God through Him without risk of illusion or trickery, in love for our brothers and sisters, and into true life.
This is the experience of those who trusted Him, especially his dearest and msot enthusiastic disciples. Two of them, the Gospel tells us, fascinated by his personality, set out to follow him. Jesus turned to them and asked: “What are you looking for?” But before they could answer, since he had understood their desire to be with him, he added: “Come and see”.
'Come and see' is the invitation addressed to you too, to get to know Jesus profoundly, to be a friend who shares time, life, work and company with Him. It is a challenge to get involved with Him by faithfully keeping to the promise of love that becomes a source of light and courage.
The door opens onto a way of love that pushes us ever onwards, ever upwards. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
With trust in God and interpreting the task given us by our father and teacher Don Bosco, at the beginnings of this new millennium I make an appeal and hand on a task to you young people of the Salesian Youth Movement: “Go beyond!”
Discover in depth, beyond the surface of each day's twist and turns, the plan that God the Father has thought up for you for all eternity.
Go beyond individual interests and listen to the many appeals you hear around you: offer a sincere word, a friendly look, a generous hand.
Go beyond your country and your culture and cultivate the seeds of universal brotherhood that can recognise diversity, because it comes from the Father of all human kind.
Go beyond an individual viewpoint, skills that have been gained even with much effort, the legitmate wealth earned, and share your goods with those who are in need.
Go beyond the certainties of reason and science and intuit the mystery hidden in reality, recognising, with childlike joy, traces of God the Creator, the energy of the Risen Christ, the enlivening presence of the Spirit.
In your own religious experience go beyond obligation, ritual, and the search for immediate emotion, and anchor yourselves in the faith of our grand ecclesial communion: Celebrate the Easter of the Lord of life and with it the victory of good over evil”.
Going beyond is nothing other than believing and taking up the Gospel logic of generosity and creativity which the Beatitudes suggest "so that the kingdom of heaven is ours... So that we can possess the earth, so we can be called children of God, so our reward in heaven may be great” (Mt 5:10.12).This is the appeal that we feel is so powerful in Don Bosco's birthplace, called precisely the Hill of Youthful Beatitudes to evoke its great passion: “I want you to be happy on earth and in eternity”.
4. Going beyond also means overcoming geographical barriers.
The Kingdom of God, today more than ever before, needs open minds and generous hearts that can feel and work at a gloabl level. In a famous dream Don Bosco imagines that he is here, at Colle, and sees the vast field of his mission: The entire world! This missionary thrust, a characteristic feature of every follower of Don Bosco, young person or adult, will be emphasised in a special way during this Jubilee Year on 27th 27 September with an 'extraordinary' missionary expedition.
Like the first group of missionaries sent by Don Bosco himself 134 years or so ago, made up of courageous and generous young men who had grown up in the oratory experience and in youth groups, this one too will leave from the Altar in Mary Help of Christians Basilica to go out in every direction through the world.
You too are called. Some volunteers will represent you. But the entire SYM must have a missionary soul. Be people who foster joy and are the leaven of hope everywhere. Feel that you are sent to be signs and bearers of God's love, giving human society a soul in the suburbs and cities proclaiming the Word to other young people.
Thus God's incarnate love will continue in and through you. Know that Salesian spirituality finds its basic inspiration from the Incarnation. In fact it is the prime way of being “signs and bearers of God's love”. This is from where we take the example of making the first step towards our borther or sister, sharing humankind's way in history, immediate and personal encounter with whoever is near us.
It is the Incarnation which reveals the value of daily life, made up of so many fragments brought together into unity and made capable of revealing God's presence, as happens over the his own days, from his birth to his resurrection, in the ordinary and extraordinary events revealing the light of Christ's divinity.
5. It is a tough but alluring task; and there are no lack of indications, energy and companions on the journey.
The European 'Confronto' you have just celebrated as a Salesian Youth Movement is a significant step along this journey, and it has been prepared and followed with study, research, prayer and festivity.
Relaunched in this jubilee year, you are now ready to communicate your experience to so many other young people and spread the spirituality which Don Bosco offers the young.
And like Don Bosco you have Mary as your “mother and teacher” for this. Do not take your gaze from her, listen to her when she says: ‘Do what Jesus tells you'. Pray with childlike faith that the Lord may raise up amongst the young generous souls who know how to say 'yes' to a vocation.
I entrust all of you to Her and with you I entrust the entire world of young people that they, attracted to her, led and enlivened, may be able to be new people for a new world: A world for Christ, our Master and Lord.
Fr Pascual Chavez V.
Colle Don Bosco 16th August 2009