Why are you here, you young people of the nineties and of the twentieth century? Do you feel perchance within yourselves “the spirit of this world”?
Have you not perhaps come here — I ask you again — to convince yourselves once and for all that to be great means to serve? This service is certainly not mere humanitarian sentimentality. Nor is the community of the disciples of Christ a volunteer agency or social help group. Such a concept of service would imply stooping to the level of the “spirit of this world”. No! Here we are dealing with something more. The radicality, quality and destiny of this “service” to which we have all been called must be seen in the context of the human Redemption. Because we have been created, we have been called, we have been destined, first and foremost, to serve God, in the image and likeness of Christ who, as Lord of all creation, as centre of the cosmos and of history, showed his royal power through obedience unto death, and was glorified in the Resurrection (Lumen Gentium, 36). The kingdom of God is realized by means of this “service”, which is the fullness and measure of all human service. It does not act according to human criterion through power, might and money. Each one of us is asked for a total readiness to follow Christ, who “came not to be served, but to serve”.
I invite you, dear friends, to discover your true vocation to cooperate in the spreading of this Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. If you really wish to serve your brothers and sisters, let Christ reign in your hearts, let him help you to discern and grow in dominion over yourselves, to strengthen you in the virtues, to fill you above all with his charity, to guide you along the path which leads to the “condition of the perfect one”. Do not be afraid to be saints! This is the liberty with which Christ has set us free (Gal 5: 1). Not as the powers of this world promise it, with false hope and deceit: total autonomy, a breaking of every dependency as creatures and sons and daughters, an affirmation of self-sufficiency which leaves us defenseless before our limitations and weaknesses, alone in the prison of our egoism, slaves to the “spirit of this world”, condemned to the “bondage of decay” (Rom 8: 21).
For this reason, I ask the Lord, to help you to grow in this “true freedom”, as a basic and illuminating criterion of judgement and choice in life. This same freedom will direct your moral behavior in truth and in charity. It will help you to discover authentic love, uncorrupted by an alienating and harmful permissiveness. It will make you people who are open to a possible total self-giving in the priesthood or consecrated life. It will make you grow in humanness through study and work. It will inspire your works of solidarity and your acts of service to those in need, whether in body or in soul. It will enable you to become “masters”, so as to serve better, and not “slaves”, victims and followers of the dominant trends in attitudes and ways of behavior.
To serve: to be a person for others.
This is also a truth which the Apostle Paul teaches very eloquently… “I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned to him” (Rom 12: 3). And the Apostle adds: “Having gifts that differ” (Rom 12: 6).
Yes! You need to know well the gifts God has granted you in Christ. It is necessary to know well the gift you have received, in order to give it to others, to contribute to the common good.
Yes. You need to perceive well the gifts God has granted you in Christ. You need to know well the gift you have received in the very experience of family and parish life, in working together with others in associations, and in the charismatic flourishing of movements, so as to be able to give it to others: thus to enrich the communion and missionary thrust of the Church, to be witnesses of Christ in your neighbourhood and school, in the university and factory, in places of work and recreation…, to contribute to the common good, as servants of experiences of growth in humanity, of dignity and solidarity, in which young people may be authentic protagonists of more human ways of life.
This is what the Apostle teaches. What he says is not just a mere teaching, but a fervent call.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practise hospitality” (Rom 12: 9-13).
Is he not perhaps saying this particularly to you, to young people? Does the fact that you are young not imply a particular sensitivity to this plan of life and action, to this world of values?
Does it not open towards this world? And if, by chance, it feels the resistance which comes from within, or indeed from without, does not your being young dispose you to struggle precisely for just such a “form” of life?