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World Youth Day
Third catechesis: "Christís witnesses in the world"
Madrid, 19th August 2011
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1. When Jesus leaves this earth visibly, he tells his friends: "You will receive power by the Holy Spirit who will come over you and you will be my witnesses ... to the edges of the earth" [Acts 1, 8].
We know what being "witnesses" or "giving evidence" means. Very simply it means telling what we have seen, or what we have heard who has the authority to ask or who simply has an interest in knowing it. For example, hear the following testimony: "What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and what our hands touched, that is the Word of life ... we proclaim also to you "[1 John 1, 1. 3]. It is the testimony given to Jesus by his best friend: John.
Faith is a true encounter with Jesus, because He is not only a memory, but a real presence among us. In faith and through the sacraments we live a true experience of friendship with Jesus.
Why, one might think, I have to testify, to tell what happened to me encountering Jesus? Why cannot I keep it for me? In the Acts of the Apostles a very interesting Peterís witness is told. Along with John he has just performed the miracle of healing a cripple. The High Priest has asked them to account for their actions to him. Then Peter says: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from dead people, this man stands in front of you safe and sound ... in no other there is salvation" [Acts 4, 10. 12]. A fact has happened. Peter renders an account: Jesus is present among us through his power of salvation. Peter and John were well aware of this. They first had experienced it. But Christ wasnít only a good for themselves; He is a good to share with everyone, because his salvation is offered to all. Whoever believes in Jesus; who has really encountered him and tries to hide what happened to him, is like who - Jesus would say - turns on the light and then covers it so that it wonít light.

2. But, someone will ask: how can I practically testify to Jesus? The answer is given by S. Peter in his first letter. It is a letter written to slandered, persecuted Christians. And they also had the same question: how can I testify to Jesus in this society? Listen carefully to Peterís answer: "Donít be dismayed for fear of them, nor be troubled, but worship the Lord, Christ, in your hearts, always ready to answer whoever asks you the reason for the hope that is in you. However do it with gentleness and respect "[1 Peter 3: 14-15].

You give evidence first of all, if you're not afraid, it you donít let yourself agitate by the view to be laughed at and like to be pitied or disqualified ["What! Do you still think so?"]. But the real strength is in a deep relationship - "in your hearts" - with Christ: "worship the Lord." And then finally this is how witness to Jesus is borne: "Always ready to answer whoever asks you the reason for the hope that is inside of you." I stop at this point a bit longer.

You give witness to a hope that is in you and that is the result of the encounter with Jesus. Who lives without hope, truly lives miserably, because doesnít have a future. Only when we are certain that the future is under a positive sign, also the present is livable. Who meets Jesus knows that He always leads him, even when he goes through dark valleys. Be therefore witnesses of hope: "there are many who wish to receive this hope."

But no one can give witness if we arenít able to account for the hope. Our hope is a reasonable one, having an unshakable foundation: the faith in Jesus. So, you have to deeply know the reasons for our faith. Read and study the catechism: whether alone or together with your friends. Get help from your priests.

What great thing is your testimony! It gives Christ the glory: in giving testimony, you are Christís glory in everything youíll do. The Apostle Paul uses a wonderful image. He says that we are "Christís scent": "through us He spreads the fragrance of His knowledge all over the world. In fact, we are Christís scent in front of God" [2 Cor 2, 14-15]. Christís glory in the world shines through the testimony that the men, his disciples, gives of him. The challenge of Jesus can be summed up in this: He bet on his disciples, assuming that his love and his salvation will reveal their power and their presence in the world through the witness of his disciples.

Youíll be witnesses of Jesus, his glory, his scent and so "youíll become an instrument to let other young people find like you the sense and the joy of life, which spring up from the encounter with Christ."

3. Anyway, I cannot hold back, dear young people, the existence of a trap that can prevent your witness from the beginning. Itís one of the indisputable dogmas of the culture in which we live. I could formulate it as follows.

"Religious faith is a private matter. Let each of you take his opinion or anyone. All have the same value at the end. The important thing is a mutual tolerance." Try to think abut a Christian who accepts this position and as him to be a witness. It is like asking someone ... to drink liters of liqueur and not to get drunk! So let us analyze, that position seriously, even if briefly.

It implies Ė and this is the fundamental mistake - that religious faith, or rather what religion says is neither true nor false, since it does not speaks with reason, but with other stakeholders. Then asking whether a religion is true or false, is like asking how many pounds ... a Mozartís symphony weighs. Truth and religion are two sizes completely foreign to each other.

Do you remember Peterís testimony? Why did Paul travel all over the world known at that time to preach the Gospel of Jesus? Simply to say: "Dear Athenians, dear Romans, this is my opinion, but the your one is another: itís the same!"?

Certainly not. Their testimony was born from a certainty: what we witness is true and therefore it applies to everyone. Now you better understand why I said: may you know to account for the hope that is in you.

"But Ė youíll be told by somebody - this way you are intolerant." In the meantime, we note one fact: the great witnesses of Jesus not only didnít imprison or kill anybody ever. They were imprisoned and killed, not rarely.

Itís also true that over the centuries, not always the Church was clear on this point. And then surely we must be careful.

The truth cannot be imposed, but only proposed. It only begs to be known. "And the victory that comes from faith is the one of love. How many Christians were and are a living testimony to the power of faith that expresses itself in love".

In the end, why should we witness to Christ? Because itís true - and we are sure of it - that confronting life in the continuous memory of the encounter with Christ, is more intelligent, is more joyful. In a word: itís more humane.


La traduzione, non rivista dal Card. Caffarra, Ť di Saveria De Vito.