Summer has begun, and we brothers are astonished to see, year after year, so many young people from so many countries continuing to visit our hill.
Of course, we would have preferred you to have had a sunnier stay. The cold and the rain are a little trying. You can find blankets in the evening at barrack 101. If you don’t have enough warm clothes, ask for some from the sisters at El Abiodh. They have a few in reserve.
You have come as pilgrims, that means that you are searching for something. Sometimes the object of this search is not too clear. So it is important to ask yourself the question: what am I searching for, deep within myself? What is my deep desire?
It also happens that we brothers become pilgrims. Last May I was in Mexico for a meeting of young people prepared during several months by a few brothers and an international team of young people. I was struck by the profound religiosity of the Mexican people.
Two thousand young people from various countries of Latin America were welcomed by families in Mexico City. The final prayer brought together five thousand young people in the large basilica of Guadalupe.
In this basilica there is a picture of Mary that is like an icon. For countless people, she is a gateway into the Gospel; she gives access to the consolation that Christ brought into the world. The first chapter of Luke’s gospel shows just how Mary is the one who made it possible for Christ to come into the world.
On this great Mexican icon, the face of Mary is that of a young woman of mixed blood. For the Mexican people, this signifies that God identifies with them, that Christ came for them, not to abolish their culture, but to fulfill it.
Faith helps the Mexicans a lot to get through difficult situations. People often spoke to me of the violence that undermines society; many young people want to leave the country. The young Latin-Americans who are here can speak better than I can about this situation.
I would like to tell you about a visit we made in Mexico City. Together with Consuelo, a woman who had previously spent a year here as a volunteer, we went to see young people who live on the street. In a somewhat wealthy area, forty people live under an improvised tent, reinforced by cardboard and all sorts of other materials.
Consuelo visits these people regularly and they were happy to see her arrive. We met in the street. A young person had been living there for twelve years. A little boy aged ten had been born there. A very young woman was expecting a baby. They get by as best they can to find a little money so as to survive. Most of them inhale a drug almost constantly.
After a little while they let us enter their tent. In the middle there was a television. In a corner I noticed a cross. We suggested that we should sing together "Nada te turbe". Then Consuelo had the idea, spontaneously, of inviting them to come to the evening prayer at our young people’s meeting.
I didn’t believe they would, but they all came. That evening we had the prayer around the cross as we do here each Friday. We were gathered together around Christ with these young people, as well as with leaders of various Churches. It was a great moment of hope.
Why am I telling you this? Not just to share the experience, but to encourage you to make similar visits yourselves. Of course one can ask what difference this makes to the poverty of those one visits. Is it not an easy way to tranquillise our conscience when faced with the enormous problems of our societies?
Our visit certainly didn’t change the situation of these young people. But perhaps we were able to keep alive a little flame of hope. Who knows? In their hearts, perhaps the memory of the meeting, of the prayer, will remain. And I know that, in any case, I was deeply touched.
When we suffer ourselves, of course we expect a cure or material help. But we also need to meet a heart that will listen and understand. In this way we can find hope and sometimes solace in our suffering.
Material poverty and structures of injustice are unacceptable. Our solidarity begins in letting our hearts adapt more to human needs, and in bringing a little human warmth to the coldness that tends to invade our societies. Christ identified with the poorest, and it is there that he waits for us, to them that he calls us. Be sure that it is a road of profound joy.
So I encourage you to make similar visits, alone or in twos or threes. See together if, around you, you can visit: foreigners, a sick person, abandoned children...
Solidarity among human beings, this is the theme we have chosen for next year. Christ invites us to cross frontiers. Near and far.
Becoming more responsive to other people: how good it is, this invitation of the Gospel! It gives meaning to our lives, it makes us know God’s love better.