Today July 15th. marks the beginning of the 23rd. World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney, Australia.
A week long affair, it’s expected to draw a few hundred thousand youth in what has become the biggest mobilization of youth in the world. The WYD culminates on July 20th (the actual World Youth Day) with a Mass by Pope Benedict XIV. Began in 1986 by John Paul II, previous WYD celebrations have attracted millions of young people from all corners of the world.
The official world youth day website is a good place to check up on the events as they unfold. EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), launched 26 years ago amidst much scepticism for the need of a Catholic media network is in Sydney too. In addition, the new Catholic social networking website, Xt3, is up and running. In its own words – “Whether you’re coming to Sydney or not, this will connect you with everyone and everything you need. Xt3 – Bringing the Gospel of Christ into the Third Millennium and building a better world”.
John Paul II’s words continue to echo: “You young people have in a special way the task of witnessing today to the faith; the commitment to bring the Gospel of Christ into the third Christian Millennium, to build a new civilization”
Which leads me to a prayer by Michel Quoist, of a young person caught between his/her hopes, dreams, abilities and fears and the sheer responsibility that comes with this momentous task of witnessing to the world:
Help me to say “Yes”
I am afraid of saying ‘yes’ Lord. Will you take me? I am afraid of drawing the longer straw. I am afraid of signing my name to an unread agreement. I am afraid of the ‘yes’ that entails other ‘yeses’. And yet, I am not at peace.
You pursue me, Lord, you besiege me.
I run after noise for fear of hearing you, but in a moment of silence, you slip through.
I turn from the road, for I have caught sight of you, but at the end of the path, you are there awaiting me. Where shall I hide? I meet you everywhere. Is it then impossible to escape you?
But I am afraid to say ‘yes’, Lord. I am afraid of putting my hand in yours, for you hold on to it. I am afraid of meeting your eyes, for you can win me. I am afraid of your demands for you are a jealous God. I am hemmed in, yet I hide. I am captured, yet I struggle, and I fight knowing that I am defeated.
For you are the stronger, Lord, you own the world and you take it from me. When I stretch out my hand to catch hold of people and things, they vanish before me. It’s no fun, Lord, I can’t keep anything for myself.
The flower I pick fades in my hands. My laugh freezes on my lips. The waltz I dance leaves me restless and uneasy. Everything seems empty. Everything seems hollow. You have made a desert around me. I am hungry and thirsty. And the whole world cannot satisfy me.
And yet, I loved you, Lord; what have I done to you? I worked for you; I gave myself for you. O great and terrible God, what more do you want?
Son, I want more for you and for the whole world.
Until now, you have planned your actions, but I have no need for them.
You have asked for my approval. you have asked for my support, you have wanted to interest me in your work. But don’t you see, son, that you were reversing the roles? I have watched you, I have seen your goodwill, and I want more than you, now. You will no longer do your own works, but the will of your Father in Heaven.
Say ‘yes’, son.
I need your ‘yes’ as much as I needed Mary’s ‘yes’ to come to earth.
For it is I who must do your work,
It is I who must live in your family,
It is I who must be in your neighbourhood, and not you.
For it is my look that penetrates, and not yours,
My words that carry weight, and not yours,
My life that transforms, and not yours.
Give all to me, abandon all to me.
I need your ‘yes’ to be united with you and to come down to earth,
I need your ‘yes’ to continue saving the world!
O Lord, I am afraid of your demands, but who can resist you?
That your Kingdom may come and not mine,
That your will be done and not mine,
Help me to say ‘yes’.
My prayer: That out of the hundreds of thousands of young people who will throng to Sydney this year, a handful brave ones say ‘yes’, then the WYD has accomplished its mission. Amen.