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Pope's Message for Youth Day 2006

2/28/2006 - 5:00 AM PST

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"Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet and a Light to My Path"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is Benedict XVI's message to young people on the occasion of the 21st World Youth Day, which will be celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, April 9.

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"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119 [118]:105)

My dear young friends!

It is with great joy that I greet you as you prepare for the 21st World Youth Day, and I relive the memory of those enriching experiences we had in August last year in Germany. World Youth Day this year will be celebrated in the local Churches, and it will be a good opportunity to rekindle the flame of enthusiasm that was awakened in Cologne and which many of you have brought to your families, parishes, associations and movements. At the same time, it will be a wonderful chance to invite many of your friends to join the young generation's spiritual pilgrimage toward Christ.

The theme that I suggest to you is a verse from Psalm 119 [118]: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (verse 105). Our dearly loved John Paul II commented on that verse of the psalm as follows: "The one who prays pours out his thanks for the Law of God that he adopts as a lamp for his steps in the often dark path of Life" (General Audience, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001).

God reveals himself in history. He speaks to humankind, and the word he speaks has creative power. The Hebrew concept "dabar," usually translated as "word," really conveys both the meaning of word and act. God says what he does and does what he says. The Old Testament announces to the Children of Israel the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a "new" covenant; in the Word made flesh He fulfills his promise.

This is clearly specified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one" (No. 65). The Holy Spirit who has led the chosen people by inspiring the authors of the sacred Scriptures, opens the hearts of believers to understand their meaning.

This same Spirit is actively present in the Eucharistic celebration when the priest, "in persona Christi," says the words of consecration, changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful. In order to progress on our earthly pilgrimage toward the heavenly Kingdom, we all need to be nourished by the word and the bread of eternal Life, and these are inseparable from one another!

The Apostles received the word of salvation and passed it on to their successors as a precious gem kept safely in the jewel box of the Church: Without the Church, this pearl runs the risk of being lost or destroyed.

My dear young friends, love the word of God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness. Love and follow the Church, for it has received from its Founder the mission of showing people the way to true happiness. It is not easy to recognize and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are "free," but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies.

"Freedom itself needs to be set free" (cf. the encyclical "Veritatis Splendor," No. 86), and the darkness in which humankind is groping needs to be illuminated. Jesus taught us how this can be done: "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). The incarnate Word, Word of Truth, makes us free and directs our freedom toward the good.

My dear young friends, meditate often on the word of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. You will then discover that God's way of thinking is not the same as that of humankind's. You will find yourselves led to contemplate the real God and to read the events of history through his eyes. You will savor in fullness the joy that is born of truth. On life's journey, which is neither easy nor free of deceptions, you will meet difficulties and suffering and at times you will be tempted to exclaim with the psalmist: "I am severely afflicted" (Psalm 119 [118]:107).

Do not forget to add as the psalmist did: "Give me life, O Lord, according to your word ... I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law" (ibid. vv. 107; 109). The loving presence of God, through his word, is the lamp that dispels the darkness of fear and lights up the path even when times are most difficult.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: "Indeed, the word of God is living and ...

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