One word to describe my World Youth Day experience in Madrid 2011 is BEAUTIFUL. Massive crowds of young people from around the world, bridging their cultural differences and gathering as one Church in worship and praise. The fluidity of culture and language is striking; nothing like culture shock or a language barrier, but all together in our universality, strengthened in communion with each other, as we bear witness to our faith. Floods and floods of youth on the streets singing joyful praise with smiles, and greeting their fellow human. No boundaries in our faith, no boundaries at all. Everyone showing such grace and peace.
Reflecting on the whole experience makes me think of St. John Paul the Great’s quote “The future is in your hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of love.” Indeed we the young are part of a pilgrim Church called to bear the force of love. No matter how small in our daily lives. And O how apparent this love was, on the streets of Madrid.
World Youth Day this year, for the second time in its history since its conception in 1984 in the Jubilee year of Redemption, falls on another Jubilee year. This time in the year of Mercy, we are called to love and love boundlessly, and be merciful because we cannot claim to love without being merciful. As a Holy Church which strives to live in the light of the word of the Lord, Pope Francis asks us to focus on the beatitudes when Jesus beckons us ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).
As we the young prepare for this event in this Jubilee year we must seek to be merciful with ourselves and with others. As part of the Church, we are called to look at the sinful woman who in her love, humbly sat and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed and perfumed them with her ointment. She saw herself for who she was and saw Jesus for who He is, The Merciful.
So we are asked to walk deeply in our faith, by looking into our hearts and at the hearts of others; forgiving and asking for forgiveness; understanding ourselves and understanding others, because we are a Church of sinners.
Where better for this event to take place than the home of St. John Paul the Great, the Pope who entrusted to us the youth, the World Youth Day Cross. He is a role model of such mercy. Whom in his humility and love for our Father, helped to end the communist rule in his native land and the whole of Eastern Europe; strove to bridge differences amongst the different beliefs and faiths in our world, emphasising our humanity above all; forgave and showed such mercy to the many people who tried to take his life. Saying after visiting one of his attackers in prison, “What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.″
So the excitement and anticipation begins; and with all this in mind we march in our numbers travelling far and wide to experience World Youth Day.