In a heartfelt plea to the youth as they prepare to go to Cologne, Germany for the next World Youth Day in August, the Pope advocated recently the spirit of the Magi who set out “boldly along unknown paths on a long and by no means easy journey” but who “did not hesitate to leave everything behind to follow the star that they had seen in the East.”
Cologne has a special history concerning the Magi. Their relics are believed to have been transferred from Constantinople, possibly late in the fifth century, to Milan Italy and to Cologne Cathedral in the twelfth century where they have been housed since, in a gold shrine built on the high altar. A number of youth from Guam and Saipan will be able to see these relics this coming August.
“My dear young people, do not yield to false illusions and passing fads which so frequently leave behind a tragic spiritual vacuum! Reject the seduction of wealth, consumerism and the subtle violence sometimes used by the mass media.” (Pope John Paul II)
When in 1995, Pope John Paul first denounced the modern West as a ‘culture of death” in the encyclical ‘The Gospel of Life’, he managed to elicit both a buzz of surprise and sighs of complacency. On one hand, many were roused from their lethargy and started understanding what is really happening around them, while others, on the other hand, largely satisfied with the comforts of modern society, just yawned in boredom.
We live in such an artificial milieu … coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol, virtual sex without sex, warfare with no causalities (on our side, of course). The list goes on… Eat, eat, eat… drink, drink, drink… have fun, go for new sensations, energize yourself with drugs, follow where your heart leads you…
The Pope puts it so clearly: “there are so many of our contemporaries who do not yet know the love of God or who are seeking to fill their hearts with trifling substitutes.’
And he immediately offers a solution. “It is therefore urgently necessary for us to be witnesses to love contemplated in Christ… Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity….”
‘Never lose the chance to become like Jesus’, Mother Teresa would tell us. And Saint Francis of Assisi will immediately add, ‘Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary, use words’.
As Catholics we cannot just sit complacently on our laurels worried about saving our small little soul and doing our own little thing. Our whole lives should resonate with a zeal to help others know that “eternal life is to know . . . the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent”. It is not the same to live a marriage crisis, a terminal sickness, an enjoyable moment with your friends, with Jesus Christ and without Jesus Christ.
This is the reason why St. Paul brought the Gospel to Europe, and why St. Patrick returned to Ireland, the land of his enslavement, and why St. Boniface felled the Oak of Thor in the Germanic regions of Europe, and why St. Augustine of Canterbury set sail for England and the North American Martyrs for Quebec. This is why Blessed Damien of Molokai left Belgium to go to Hawaii and why St. Francesca Cabrini left Italy for the United States and why Blessed Diego and Father Medina left Spain to sail to the Marianas.
One of the saddest statistics of our day is that 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ. Cecil Northcott in ‘A Modern Epiphany’ tells of a discussion in a camp of young people where representatives of many nations were living together. “One wet night the campers were discussing various ways of bringing people back to Christ. They turned to the girl from Africa. `Maria,’ they asked, `what do you do in your country?’ `Oh,’ said Maria, `we don’t have missions or give pamphlets away. We just send one or two Christian families to live and work in a village, and when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians too.'”
In the end the only all-conquering argument is the argument of a Christian life. A man once laid a piece of chocolate candy on a table. Then, picking up an ant, he put it near the delicious candy. He was surprised to see it take a single bite and then hurry off to inform the rest of the colony. Soon the little insect returned, followed by a long train of other ants that devoured the treat with him.
Once you taste the goodness of the Lord you simply cannot but go out and spread the glad tidings to others. Perhaps the problem is that many of us have never tasted His goodness! Perhaps we have never followed THE star like what the Magi did! What a pity!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.