By Sandra Navarro
When hundreds of thousands of young people of different races and many languages gather and realize they all are saying the same thing, this is church. And that was the intention of Pope John Paul II when he initiated World Youth Day several decades ago. But offering the world an impressive, colorful spectacle, magnificent as it is, is not the whole goal of this event. The main thing is the personal encounter with the living Christ: a personal, intimate encounter of friendship given, paradoxically, in the midst of a crowd. That is because the crowd, as experienced in this moment, is a single body. And it is the Body of Christ.
Getting to Madrid in August is not an easy feat given the international economic and political situation. Many young people had to make enormous efforts and sacrifices to participate: selling food and raffles, running flea markets and garage sales, giving up vacations, new clothes, or going out, and organizing concerts, dances, and other events. But it is all worthwhile. Those who have attended a World Youth Day know that it changes things, it changes their lives. Many say they found their true vocation there. All know they are faced with a tremendous challenge: “to be peacemakers, to foster justice, and to create a more humane world.”
“To be the Christians the world needs today; witnesses ofChristian hope throughout the world,” is how the Spanish bishops put it in their invitation to WYD in Madrid. That is also the challenge Pope Benedict XVI gave them.
What is beautiful about all this is that it happens in a festive context of joy and fun. Besides the catechesis, the moments of prayer and pilgrimages to significant places in the country, there are concerts, dances, theatre, games…both organized and spontaneous. And all contribute to the depth of the experience of an encounter with the face of Christ.
There are some significant and very moving moments in the week long journey, such as the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary with each Hail Mary said in a different language as a whole journey around the world with Mary. Everything leads to the culmination and most emotional experience, which is the encounter with the pope on the last day. “This encounter with Christ,” says the pope, “will root and build us in Christ and will make our faith a firm rock to be the foundation of our lives.” And that is not a call just to the young people present, but to the whole body, the church throughout the world.
¿De qué maneras te has encontrado con Jesús? ¿Cómo te ayuda saber que hay muchos otros jóvenes por el mundo que buscan la misma experiencia? Your Turn In which ways have you encountered Jesus? How does the knowledge that there are many other young people in the world seeking the same thing help you?