A thirst for life in fullness
Wednesday evening, 3 February
It is a great joy to be together for this Pilgrimage of Trust. It is God who unites us. It is he who wants to touch our hearts. For the fifth time we are holding a young adult Asian meeting: three times in India, and once already here in the Philippines. And now again young people from various Asian countries as well as from Europe, Australia, New Zealand even from the North America are discovering the beautiful hospitality of the Filipino people.
You have also come from different parts of the Philippines. And I want to greet specially those from Mindanao. In this group some Muslim friends have joined young Christians for this Pilgrimage of Trust.
At the first meeting in Manila, the founder of our community, Brother Roger, had admired the gifts of young Filipinos. He told them how much he appreciated in them a heartfelt trust, trust in the living God.
Today, when you arrived, you received the "Letter from China". One of the questions that guided me in writing this letter is this: in every human being there is a thirst for life in fullness, so how can faith in Christ respond to this thirst?
Recently, I made a three-week visit to the Christians of China with two of my brothers, one Chinese and the other Korean. What struck me in that country was to see a spiritual longing present in so many young people. I met young people who were not believers and who are turning to religion. In them too there is a thirst for life in fullness.
All across the world, though we have very different histories, do we not find ourselves facing similar issues? No one can avoid asking themselves: What can give direction to my life? What goal can I choose that is worth the effort?
We all feel that there needs to be major changes in our world. The structures of our societies and patterns of thought from the past are proving to be inadequate and insufficient to create greater justice on earth, to reduce poverty, to ensure that persons and peoples can live together in peace.
But we also discover that necessary change, particularly an overhaul of the world economic and financial system, is not possible without a change in the human heart.
We are very hopeful that societies can change. But we are here together so that each of us can deepen first of all a change of heart. And we would like to ask ourselves: from what source can we draw to undertake this change of heart?
In every human heart there is a longing, the longing to be loved and to love. At the same time, we all experience that this longing is only rarely satisfied, and never for all time. Far from discouraging us, this can allow us to discover over and over again a personal communion with God.
Is not this thirst within us a mark engraved in us by God so that we can turn towards him? That will be the topic of your reflection tomorrow morning in the small groups.
Economic progress, however important, cannot quench our deepest thirst. This thirst opens our heart so that we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit whisper day and night within us: "You are loved for ever and once and for all, and even the hardships of your life, however real and sometimes very hard, cannot eradicate this love."
And then our heart changes. And not only our heart, but also our way of looking and our behavior. We become more capable of discerning what is good and what is bad; without being naïve we become better able to dialogue, to reach out to others, to make our life a pilgrimage of trust. And in this way we will contribute as believers to help determine the face of the new world that is emerging.
The longing of Mary Magdalene
Thursday midday, 4 February
The Gospel we have just read tells of a woman, Mary Magdalene, weeping, full of dismay, as if the death of Jesus had brought an end to all her hopes (John 20:11-18).
Yet, whereas the apostles of Jesus were imprisoned by fear, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. By this she expresses not only her grief, but also an expectation, however confused it may be. It is the longing of a love.
Mary Magdalene is also filled by the thirst which is present in every human heart and which I spoke about last night. I said to you: is not that thirst a mark engraved by God in us so that we can turn to him?
By going to the tomb, Mary expresses her thirst and then Jesus, risen from the dead, comes to her. And he does so in a completely unexpected way, not in triumph, but so humbly that she does not recognize him; she takes him for the gardener.
And then Jesus calls her by name, “Mary”, which will change everything. Mary recognizes in her heart the voice of Jesus. She turns to him and in turn calls him “Rabboni, Lord.”
A new life begins in her; she trusts that Jesus is near, even if his presence is now different. Then the Risen Lord sends her: “Go to my brothers and tell them that I am risen!” Her life takes on a new meaning; she has a task to perform.
Yes, we find the fullness of life that Christ wants to give us if we allow him to send us out to convey his love.
This afternoon, in the small groups, you can think about the story of Mary Magdalene. For in each of us, too, just as in Mary Magdalene, there is a longing, often unresolved questions, and a thirst for life in fullness.
We sometimes feel this longing as a lack or as emptiness, or even as suffering. We may express it by a cry of distress or, without words, by a simple sigh. But in this way our being begins to open up to God.
And then Christ calls us by our own name. He knows each of us personally. He says, “Go to my brothers and sisters, tell them that I am risen. Communicate my love by your life.”
The courage of Mary Magdalene stimulates us. She, a woman all alone, dares to go to the apostles of Jesus and tell them some unbelievable news: “Christ is risen from the dead!” She knows how to convey the love of God by her life. And the apostles, this small group of just a few men, will go to proclaim that love across the world. She communicated to the Apostles a fire they will in turn communicate to the ends of the earth.
Each of us can communicate that fire, that trust in Christ. And something surprising happens: it is by transmitting the mystery of Christ’s resurrection that we understand it more and more. In this way, this mystery becomes increasingly central to our existence; it can transform our life.
To believe in Christ, to believe in his presence, even if it is invisible, to believe that by the Holy Spirit he dwells in our hearts, is the risk that the story of Mary Magdalene invites us to take. Let us dare to rely on this presence. Then the resurrection of Christ gives a new meaning to our lives, and it kindles hope for the world.
Sharing what we have in order to transform the world
Thursday evening, 4 February
Yesterday evening, and today at noon, I told you: we are here together to see how faith in Christ can respond to our thirst for life in fullness. And you talked about this in the small groups today.
This is not primarily an act of will-power. It is when we turn towards God than our thirst can be quenched. It is God who quenches it. Can we take time, every day, to turn towards God?
In prayer God always comes to meet us. The Bible dares to say that in God there is also a thirst, the thirst to be in communion with human beings.
God comes to us through Christ. The Eucharist is the clearest expression of this that is given. Through it we receive his life. The Eucharist is such a mystery; we can only receive it in the spirit of childhood and adoration.
For all time, Mary is the witness to the fact that God comes to us. That is why we can also look to her. Here in the Philippines, faith in the Eucharist and the veneration of Mary have enabled a multitude to pass through the trials of life by trusting in God.
Through the Holy Spirit God dwells in our hearts and he speaks to us there, suggesting ideas and plans. But how can we recognize this inner voice? Our heart overflows with an abundance of aspirations. We want so many different things, sometimes contradictory ones.
The Holy Spirit enables us to realize that God accompanies us in all situations, even the most difficult ones. He is always at our side. He also places us side by side. And he offers us the possibility of living, in all things, in simplicity of heart and in great solidarity.
Many of you know what simplicity means. Simplicity opens our heart to sharing and solidarity with others. We see here in Manila so many people who undertake initiatives of sharing and are committed alongside the poor, who act with integrity and for the good of all. Back in Europe I would like to tell the young people who come to Taizé about this, so that they may let themselves be led further along this road.
Sharing what we have to contribute to a transformation of the world, that will be the topic discussed in the small groups tomorrow.
I also think of some nuns I visited in China. They went to settle in the region of Sichuan, where there were major earthquakes in 2008. They are bringing help to suffering people. But they cannot speak about their faith. They can only be a silent presence, a reflection of the baby Jesus born silently in Bethlehem.
With those sisters, we understood better the path of sharing, simplicity and solidarity. One of them told us, "After several months of working with people, many of us are going through a period of doubt. Why is there so much suffering?" Another said, "Seeing our inability to help people, I feel like Mary under the Cross."
Yet another: "We were asked not to speak of the faith; that’s hard but I understand my vocation even better; being close to people is already living the Gospel. People suspect that there is a meaning to our lives, even if it escapes them."
Could the testimony of those Christian Chinese religious women sustain our hope and courage? By living in simplicity, we will better discover how to share what we have and in that way we can participate, even very humbly, in an effort to change the world.
Deepening trust in God and renewing our courage
Friday evening, 5 February
During these days, everyone can discover that we are not alone to deepen our trust in God. We are part of a fellowship of believers. In the Philippines, you know well that faith in Christ is inseparable from belonging to the Church. So more than ever it is important to go towards her, in order to express our love of this unique communion which is the Church.
Yes, it is all together, supported by each other, that we can deepen our trust in God. And together too we renew our courage to look for ways of taking part in an effort to transform the world.
It was a deep trust in God that strengthened the courage of those who brought about great changes in society in the Philippines. Do you know that what was done here in the Philippines remains a light towards which other peoples of the earth are looking? You yourselves may not see it anymore, but it would be so important for you to keep it alive in your hearts and rely on it.
If, with two of my brothers, we went to China, it was not to bring anything but rather to listen to the Christians there. And we are particularly happy that some young people from China are among us here in Manila these days.
One of the strongest testimonies we heard there was given by an 80-year-old Protestant pastor. He was in a work camp for 27 years, first imprisoned and then exiled far from home. He told us: “At a time when nothing of the Church was visible, the invisible Church existed nonetheless. What kept me alive were the words of Isaiah where God says: ’My ways are not your ways’.”
And when I asked him how he saw the future, he replied: “I do not know the future, but I know God. God will guide us step by step.”
As in China, in many countries across the world a new thirst for interiority is emerging and attention to a beyond is being reborn. This is a sign of hope that leads us to deepen our own trust in God in order to communicate it to those around us.
When you return home, in order better to communicate trust in God to others, will you discover the profound beauty of the Word of God? Read it together with others.
Some would like to read the Bible more, but it’s true that reading the Bible is not always easy. So do not forget that Christ himself is the Word of God. When we read the Scriptures we encounter him, Christ; we enter into a personal relationship with him.
In coming years, some of you will acquire much knowledge and skills in your studies or your work. Be careful then not to let your faith remain on the level of expressions learned during childhood. Back home, keep on looking for ways to deepen your understanding of the mystery of faith.
Communicating around us trust in God, becoming missionaries of the Gospel in our daily lives, in the places where we live, this requires us to renew our courage again and again. Together you will look for ways to do this, in the small groups tomorrow morning.
Where we live to love, there God is present
Saturday evening, 6 February
We are very grateful for the welcome we have received these days. A heartfelt thanks to the families and all those who opened their doors so generously. Thank you to the Church leaders who supported the preparation of this meeting. Thank you to all those who worked with us.
Twenty-four years ago, in February 1986, here in Manila there was a celebration of newfound freedom, a time of great joy that remains in the memory of your people and that is not forgotten elsewhere across the world, either. Our first meeting in Manila, in February 1991, was marked by this.
It was a time of enthusiasm; now we are instead in a time of decision and perseverance.
Today, are we thinking enough about the meaning of freedom? Freedom means being able to choose where to set our priorities. Freedom means not giving in to negative tendencies in ourselves. Freedom also enables us to fight against poverty, against the structures of injustice in our societies.
Freedom also means being able to express our faith. During our visit to China, several people told us about the suffering that their parents or grandparents endured for the faith. Let us keep those Chinese Christians in our prayers.
This evening I would like to say a special word to the young people of the Philippines. In your country, the Christian faith has a long history. Throughout the centuries deep roots have developed among you which have allowed your people to keep trusting in God in spite of trials. Often these roots are linked to your family and the parish where you grew up.
Today some of you are trying to renew the expressions of faith, and that is good. Outward expressions can change. Sometimes they have to change, so that the light of faith can shine with new luster.
But this search will only succeed if it goes hand in hand with an understanding of your past. This is a challenge: to create something new while finding support in tradition. Our small Taizé Community would like to remain alongside you in your searching.
The light the children have just lit and that we passed to one another is a sign of the resurrection.
That flame of peace exists to shine on all human beings. So we want to look for ways, quite humbly, of responding to the call to transform the world, to combat poverty, to promote sharing, solidarity, the responsible use of the resources of our planet.
Yes, the light of peace is for everyone. And it leads our community to continue the "pilgrimage of trust on earth" with young people from all continents. This pilgrimage includes meetings in Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Why?
Christians know that Christ came to earth for all human beings without exception. Globalization, even with the ambiguities it entails, gives us new opportunities to express the universality of our communion in Christ. In this expansion, we can find the vitality to express our faith in a new way.
Yes, in faith we are pilgrims. For all of us there are and there will be trials along the road. At times they may seem to overwhelm us, so that even consolation from our family or friends will hardly affect us. So what can we do? Is not our response to personal trials, and to the trials endured by others, to love more?
A song could then accompany us when we return home and throughout the journey of our life: Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Where there is love, where we live to love, there we have the certainty that God is present.