One of our society’s important and urgent concerns is the on-going formation of our youth, the formation of young women and men who will become carriers of moral values in our complex crisis-ridden globalized society, yes, young women and men from whose group will rise up a new generation of leaders which our country today urgently needs.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, continuing the tradition of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, has issued his message to the Youth of the World on the occasion of the 21st World Youth Day which will occur on April 9 Palm Sunday. According to Pope Benedict XVI, our youth today “are often held captive by the current ways of thinking” which are contrary or opposed to “God’s way 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.”
Thus, there is need above all to save the young from among whom we hope a new generation of leaders will rise to lead our country to the path of justice, honesty, truth and freedom. If we lose the young, we lose the hope on which our future hangs. There is reason why for the past quarter of a century the Pope and the Church have been calling for the celebration of “World Youth Day.” It is to continue rekindling the flame of hope that the world has on the youth.
Pope Benedict hands on to the youth a biblical mantra: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (PS. 119 : 105). This is the theme of the 21st World Youth Day which will be celebrated in the local churches on Palm Sunday. “Word” in Hebrew language is “Dabar,” which conveys both the meaning of the word and act. The Hebrew “dabar” refers to both word and action. Hence, when we say “We believe in God” we mean to say that “God says what he does and does what he says.” Now Christ is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the Word, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. “The loving presence of God,” Benedict XVI states, “through his Word, is the lamp that dispels the darkness of fear and lights up the path even when times are most difficult.”
In our country today, we have a crisis of credibility; we find it difficult to believe in one another or to believe in our leaders. We say that God is credible because God says what he does and does what he says. Unfortunately we fail to become images of God in this regard. When Judas betrayed our Lord, when Peter denied him, when the disciples failed to follow Jesus along the way, … they all failed in credibility. They failed to act according to what they said they are, his followers. There was no congruence between their word and their act.
When a leader says one thing and acts differently from what he had said he would do: that is a failure in credibility. And we are created in the image and likeness of God, who “says what he does and does what he says.” To be credible then is to be an image of God.
Pope Benedict XVI in his World Youth Day Message presents a program for young people of the Third Millennium: how to build their life on Christ, how to put his Word/teachings into practice/life. This is in answer to the need for the emergence of a new generation of Christian disciples/leaders. First, the young must be acquainted with the Word of God in the Scriptures through bible-reading (lectio). This means they have to lessen TV watching and shorten recreation. Second, the young must learn to study and meditate on the Word of Christ (meditatio). “Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ” say the Latin Fathers. Third, the young must learn to talk with God in prayer (oratio). The more we pray to him, the more we realize he is a friend and a father, and vice versa. Finally comes the living attention to the presence of God/Christ in our life like “a lamp shining in a dark place” (contemplatio). These are the stages to become “doers of the Word and not merely hearers.”
God is credible simply because he truthfully says what he does and faithfully does what he says. Jesus Christ is his witness to this: to prove his testimony, he did not back out from it, inspite of difficulties, trials and the passion that he was made to undergo.
To us and to our youth is presented the life of Jesus Christ as a model and a program. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them” Jesus said, “will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Mt. 7/24). It will not collapse, the Holy Father comments, in his message to the Youth, when bad weather comes.
Credibility. Credibility. I say it again credibility. This is the challenge we give to our new generation of leaders. Yes, people whom we believe because “The Word of God is a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.
*A homily of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, DD, delivered to the graduates of Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Iloilo, March 31, 2006.