Despite its name, World Youth Day actually comprises several days,
and in a real sense it does not have an end. It will be unforgettable
for generations. Convictions established here will be lived out for
years to come.
Our Holy Father's bearing and his voice have been strong, and his
message has been stronger. Stressing fundamentals, he has returned to
the Sermon on the Mount, described Jesus Christ in the challenge of the
Beatitudes, and called upon all of us, especially young people, to be
salt of the earth and light of the world.
Pope John Paul II's arrival has been electric. From the first instant
his rapport with all was immediate. Young people, lay adults,
religious, deacons, priests, bishops and Cardinals from all over the
world continued to ring out our applause for him in music and cheers.
Of course, our unity is founded directly in Jesus Christ, but the
Pope as Vicar of Christ on earth is a visible sign of that unity. John
Paul II embodies that responsibility with profound historical impact.
No one in history has spoken to more people, in more languages, and
in more cultural settings than he has. He has been a major force in the
overthrow of Communist regimes, revolutions that have been for the most
part bloodless and non violent. He has written numerous encyclicals,
apostolic constitutions, apostolic exhortations, and pastoral letters.
He has authorized the publication of the new Code of Canon Law and the
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
He meets with people from all over the world every day, striving with
extraordinary resolve to build the Kingdom of God. His immense faith
shows him to be a pilgrim on earth. We are here as pilgrims for World
Youth Day, but more basically we are reminded that we all are pilgrims
and sojourners on earth, in search of a better place, a finer homeland, a
heavenly kingdom. All of us in our own ways are called in God's grace
to build the City of God.
Of course there are challenges. For the disciples of Jesus Christ the
most potent symbol on earth is the cross. Our Holy Father presented
World Youth Day in 1984 with a special twelve foot cross. Since then it
has been carried throughout the world and is very much in evidence here.
It is borne through the throngs for the various events, its very
movement underscoring our call as pilgrims. As it is lifted on the
shoulders of young people, the Song of the Cross highlights the mystery:
"Love, lifted on the Cross for me,
My Lord, my God, my salvation.
Love, lifted high to set me free,
My Lord, my God, my salvation."
As Christians, as pilgrims, we are reminded that our crucifixions lead to Resurrection.
The theme for World Youth Day 2002 is: "You are the salt of the
earth, you are the light of the world." With all the cheering,
excitement, and applause, when all is said and done, we have come here
most of all to pray. To pray with brothers and sisters from across the
world. Our vision of what it means to be Catholic has been expanded. Our
call to discipleship has become more urgent.
One of the keys, I believe, to understanding Pope John Paul is his
mysticism. As a young man, at the same age as many young people here, he
learned Spanish so that he could read the poetry of the revered mystic,
St. John of the Cross, in the original language. He quotes St. John of
the Cross in various places, particularly in his very personal
testimony, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. Citing "Dichosos de Luz y
Vida," ("Sayings of Light and Life"), he reminds us: "En la tarde de la
vida, seramos examinados por el amor." "In the twilight of our lives we
will be evaluated on love."
May all of us, younger and older, be salt of the earth, light of the world, and pilgrims of love.
Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
July 26, 2002