At the beginning of this homily, imagine if I was to make an interview with you, a virtual interview. Let’s say that I asked you, “What brought you to the Youth Festival this year?”
I believe that some of you might perhaps answer, “Yes, others told me. They witnessed to me about the previous years of the Youth Festival, saying that one can meet God. One can experience the nearness of God. That is why I’m here.” I believe that many of you want that.
Perhaps some of you might say, “I’m empty. My soul is empty. I came to fill up my batteries so I would be able to carry on with all of the challenges of my life.”
Some of you might say this, “I am so stuffed with everything that I have lost myself. I came to find myself.” As St. Augustine would say, “I sought for you, you were a meaning outside of myself.”
I believe that in the beginning that someone might say, “I am struggling, but my boat is not moving because it is tied. It’s not moving forward. I came to untie my boat with a sincere Confession so I will be able to continue with my life. That is why I need to untie myself, and I need to receive absolution of my sins.” Some of you would perhaps recognize that.
Some of you might say: “I am alone. In my home, they raised me just to think about myself, in selfishness. And this makes me unhappy. I cannot live just out of that; to be running after my own needs. I want to find the joy of life in giving. That is why I came here.”
And I believe that many of you might even say, “I’m restless. I do not have peace. I came here to seek peace for my soul. To pray to Our Lady whom we call the Queen of Peace, so she would give me peace in my soul. That I would be able to radiate peace in my environment.”
Some of you perhaps might say, “I came to recognize other people as my companions.” Because, we, as we follow the media and politics, can see that it is only about opposition. It is not about how to journey together. That is why I believe that many of you would be seeking for this – that in your fellow man you would recognize your own companions.
Also, some of you might respond, “I came to get to know my life. How precious my life is? How much am I prepared to sacrifice myself? Because there is no love without a readiness for sacrifice. And the most important lesson in my life, what I need to learn, is to love. Because God created me out of love. God created me for love. But, very often I get upset because I am so unhappy.”
The best way to see this unhappiness is by walking around the town, whether it is your own country, or some other country. Europe is like that. Everyone is very grumpy. For instance, two hours ago, we had a sudden thunderstorm… there are people who are so disagreeable that you just wait for the thunder to erupt from them. People look unhappy. Because man cannot be happy, nor can he radiate happiness without God. God is love and out of love He created us.
Some of you would say, and I already heard this here, “I am really struggling with the divisions in our faith. You get one story being said here. Then there is another story being said there. And third is something else altogether. I just came here so Our Lady would lead me to Jesus.” Everything that you have been seeking for now, we will all find that with Jesus. Mary will be the one who will lead us there.
The message of this year’s Youth Festival is “Come and You Will See.” It means, “I came…not to see with my eyes. But I came to see with my heart. I came to see with my faith.” Who? The Risen One! Only He can give the answer to us, to our life questions. All of the searching. All of the technology. All of the knowledge. All of the discoveries. These cannot give what Jesus gives us. “I give you my Peace. Believe in me and the One who sent me!”
That is why it is so important to learn from Mary. Do we listen to the Word of God? How do we hear the Word of God? Do we accept it? How do we live it? And you have heard from the Gospel, when Mary and the disciples were looking for Jesus, and they told him, “Your Mother and your brothers are looking for you.” And He looked around and said, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers and my sisters? Those who listen to the Word of God and fulfill it!” God is in us. God is giving Himself to us. But I need to be opened to receive, just like Mary. Receive the Word of God. To accept it in my life. That this Word may become a light. A guideline for me. My stronghold!
That is why, dear youth, you have inherited much that has been quite deformed in your own upbringing, in your own education. The first deviation is that they lied to you, saying that you need to live without suffering. “I do not want my children to suffer, as I suffered.” Many parents say that. It’s a lie! No one has succeeded in life who hasn’t struggled or suffered. If we want to accomplish something in our lives, then we need to be bold and courageous and prepared for sacrifice!
I can see that you all have symbols; you have flags of your own countries, of your own people. It is quite understandable. Yes! This shows where we come from, who we are. But there is a symbol that can be applied to all of the nations, in all of the areas of this earth. And this symbol is: The Crucified Christ! The Crucified Christ, who, from the Cross, wishes to embrace every person. This Cross is our identity! This is where we learn!
When they took St. Bonaventure and when they asked him, where did he get such knowledge? He brought them at the foot of the Cross, and he told them, “This book I read every single day. I still haven’t finished reading it, this book!”
We all know well how to carry the Cross as a symbol that we are Christians. Especially during the time of the Turkish Empire, when the Turks were ruling. And it seems to me that they can rule again. That is when our mothers, our women, our girls would carry crosses on their skin, like tattoos. Because it was a way of showing who they were. And this cross would be the sign of recognition: “We are Christians!”
Or, I remember a witness. There was an event after the Second World War. Prisoners were on a forced journey and were told that they needed to leave everything behind. Then, someone carried Our Lady’s Medal and the other, a Cross. And there was this a man with a gun. He said, “Remove them.” And they responded, “You can kill us, but you will not be able to remove these. This is the sign of our life!”
Why do I say this? We need to find our stronghold! The struggle for our life, that I may not be divided. This is what is killing us. So that I know from conviction how to live. If you are disturbed by modernism, materialism, and the desire for prosperity; then you need to know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life. With your heart choose that life with your spirit, to embrace the Risen One and not to be afraid. The life of Christ alone is able to bring the future! Cowards are not able to build a future, only people who are prepared for sacrifice. And this is what you will learn in the School of Cross.
That is why, dear youth, if you want to build your future, if you want to build your future, allow Mary to bring you to Jesus. That you may hear the One who can direct you, Come and you will see! Come along with Jesus. See Jesus not with the earthly eyes, but with the eyes of faith. Come and we will see! You will go back home, and the others will see that you met God! You found Jesus. That Mary Our Mother is taking you to Him. May the others wish to experience that just like you did!
That is why I’m rejoicing! That tonight, with you, right here, I am able to pray. Praise God! I’m able to ask for Our Lady’s intercession; so that I may, as your shepherd encourage you so that you won’t be afraid of life. Do not believe everything that has been passed onto you from the media, either TV or politics. They need to do that that way. You need to use your own brains.
Your head is only yours. And you know that in pharmacies when you buy some medication, there is an instruction, “Shake before use.” Also, use your head! Shake your head when you need to make decisions. Do not be cowards, that will not make decisions. The ones who know how to love; they are not afraid to make decisions. Usually those who are in fear live in such a way that they won’t lose anything. But those who believe in God, those who love God, they can never lose!
This Youth Festival that has been held here for 31 years; may it encourage that faith in you, that you may change the world because you have decided for the Risen Christ. May Our Lady, may Our Mother protect you on that journey. Amen!