Episcopal Commission on the  Biblical Apostolate 

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines



Posted on March 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM






“Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4)


Dear young friends,

Iam happy to address you once more on the occasion of the 27th World Youth Day.The memory of our meeting in Madridlast August remains close to my heart. It was a time of extraordinary gracewhen God showered his blessings on the young people gathered from all over theworld. I give thanks to God for all the fruits which that event bore, fruitswhich will surely multiply for young people and their communities in thefuture. Now we are looking forward to our next meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, whose theme will be:“Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19).

Thisyear’s World Youth Day theme comes from Saint Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians:“Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). Joy is at the heart of Christianexperience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy ofcommunion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of themarks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises.In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty andreliability of the Christian faith.

TheChurch’s vocation is to bring joy to the world, a joy that is authentic andenduring, the joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds on the night Jesuswas born (cf. Lk 2:10). Not only did God speak, not only did he accomplishgreat signs throughout the history of humankind, but he drew so near to us thathe became one of us and lived our life completely. In these difficult times, somany young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is amessage of joy and hope! I would like to reflect with you on this joy and onhow to find it, so that you can experience it more deeply and bring it toeveryone you meet.

1. Our hearts are made for joy

Ayearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. Far more thanimmediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, our hearts seek a perfect,full and lasting joy capable of giving “flavour” to our existence. This isparticularly true for you, because youth is a time of continuous discovery oflife, of the world, of others and of ourselves. It is a time of openness to thefuture and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, atime when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans.

Eachday is filled with countless simple joys which are the Lord’s gift: the joy ofliving, the joy of seeing nature’s beauty, the joy of a job well done, the joyof helping others, the joy of sincere and pure love. If we look carefully, wecan see many other reasons to rejoice. There are the happy times in familylife, shared friendship, the discovery of our talents, our successes, thecompliments we receive from others, the ability to express ourselves and toknow that we are understood, and the feeling of being of help to others. Thereis also the excitement of learning new things, seeing new and broader horizonsopen up through our travels and encounters, and realizing the possibilities wehave for charting our future. We might also mention the experience of reading agreat work of literature, of admiring a masterpiece of art, of listening to orplaying music, or of watching a film. All these things can bring us real joy.

Yeteach day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry aboutthe future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we longmight be an illusion and an escape from reality. Many young people askthemselves: is perfect joy really possible? The quest for joy can followvarious paths, and some of these turn out to be mistaken, if not dangerous. Howcan we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate andillusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures anddoes not forsake us at moments of difficulty?

2. God is the source of true joy

Whateverbrings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys inlife, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious.This is because God is a communion of eternal love, he is infinite joy thatdoes not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God lovesand who love him. God created us in his image out of love, in order to showerhis love upon us and to fill us with his presence and grace. God wants us toshare in his own divine and eternal joy, and he helps us to see that thedeepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed andloved by him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers usan unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have aplace in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God acceptsme and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certaintythat it is a good thing that I am alive”.

God’sinfinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we aresearching for is to be found in him. We see in the Gospel how the events at thebeginning of Jesus’ life are marked by joy. When the Archangel Gabriel tellsthe Virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of the Saviour, his first word is“Rejoice!” (Lk 1:28). When Jesus is born, the angel of the Lord says to theshepherds: “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be forall the people. For today in the city of Davida Saviour has been born for you, who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). Whenthe Magi came in search of the child, “they were overjoyed at seeing the star”(Mt 2:10). The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God who became one ofus. This is what Saint Paulmeans when he writes to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shallsay it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near”(Phil 4:4-5). Our first reason for joy is the closeness of the Lord, whowelcomes me and loves me.

Anencounter with Jesus always gives rise to immense inner joy. We can see this inmany of the Gospel stories. We recall when Jesus visited Zacchaeus, a dishonesttax collector and public sinner, he said to him: “Today I must stay at yourhouse”. Then, Saint Luke tells us, Zacchaeus “received him with joy” (Lk19:5-6). This is the joy of meeting the Lord. It is the joy of feeling God’slove, a love that can transform our whole life and bring salvation. Zacchaeusdecides to change his life and to give half of his possessions to the poor.

Atthe hour of Jesus’ passion, this love can be seen in all its power. At the endof his earthly life, while at supper with his friends, Jesus said: “As theFather loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love... I have told you thisso that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:9,11). Jesuswants to lead his disciples and each one of us into the fullness of joy that heshares with the Father, so that the Father’s love for him might abide in us(cf. Jn 17:26). Christian joy consists in being open to God’s love andbelonging to him.

TheGospels recount that Mary Magdalene and other women went to visit the tombwhere Jesus had been laid after his death. An angel told them the astonishingnews of Jesus’ resurrection. Then, the Evangelist tells us, they ran from thesepulchre, “fearful yet overjoyed” to share the good news with the disciples.Jesus met them on the way and said: “Peace!” (Mt 28:8-9). They were beingoffered the joy of salvation. Christ is the One who lives and who overcame evil,sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and he will remain withus until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Evil does not have the last wordin our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love isvictorious.

Thisdeep joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s sons and daughters,capable of experiencing and savouring his goodness, and calling him “Abba”,Father (cf. Rm 8:15). Joy is the sign of God’s presence and action within us.


3 .Preserving Christian joy in our hearts

Atthis point we wonder: “How do we receive and maintain this gift of deep,spiritual joy?”

Oneof the Psalms tells us: “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you yourheart's desire” (Ps 37:4). Jesus told us that “the kingdom of heaven is like atreasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out ofjoy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44). Thediscovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter withthe Lord. Jesus asks us to follow him and to stake our whole life on him. Dearyoung people, do not be afraid to risk your lives by making space for JesusChrist and his Gospel. This is the way to find inner peace and true happiness.It is the way to live fully as children of God, created in his image andlikeness.

Seekjoy in the Lord: for joy is the fruit of faith. It is being aware of hispresence and friendship every day: “the Lord is near!” (Phil 4:5). It isputting our trust in God, and growing in his knowledge and love. Shortly weshall begin the “Year of Faith”, and this will help and encourage us. Dearfriends, learn to see how God is working in your lives and discover him hiddenwithin the events of daily life. Believe that he is always faithful to the covenantwhich he made with you on the day of your Baptism. Know that God will neverabandon you. Turn your eyes to him often. He gave his life for you on the crossbecause he loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy toour hearts that nothing can destroy. Christians can never be sad, for they havemet Christ, who gave his life for them.

Toseek the Lord and find him in our lives also means accepting his word, which isjoy for our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote: “When I found your words, Idevoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart” (Jer 15:16).Learn to read and meditate on the sacred Scriptures. There you will find ananswer to your deepest questions about truth. God’s word reveals the wondersthat he has accomplished throughout human history, it fills us with joy, and itleads us to praise and adoration: “Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; letus kneel before the Lord who made us” (Ps 95:1,6).

Theliturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which shereceives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass theChristian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is thedeath and resurrection of Christ. This is a very important moment for all the Lord’sdisciples because his sacrifice of love is made present. Sunday is the day whenwe meet the risen Christ, listen to his word, and are nourished by his body andblood. As we hear in one of the Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; letus rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps 118:24). At the Easter Vigil, the Churchsings the Exultet, a hymn of joy for the victory of Jesus Christ over sin anddeath: “Sing, choirs of angels! ... Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour ...Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!”Christian joy is born of this awareness of being loved by God who became man,gave his life for us and overcame evil and death. It means living a life oflove for him. As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a young Carmelite, wrote:“Jesus, my joy is loving you” (P 45, 21 January 1897).


4. The joy of love

Dearfriends, joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of theHoly Spirit (cf. Gal 5:23). Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love.Blessed Teresa of Calcutta drew on Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to givethan to receive” (Acts 20:35) when she said: “Joy is a net of love by which youcan catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy givesmore”. As the Servant of God Paul VI wrote: “In God himself, all is joy becauseall is giving” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975).

Inevery area of your life, you should know that to love means to be steadfast,reliable and faithful to commitments. This applies most of all to friendship.Our friends expect us to be sincere, loyal and faithful because true loveperseveres even in times of difficulty. The same thing can be said about yourwork and studies and the services you carry out. Fidelity and perseverance indoing good brings joy, even if not always immediately.

Ifwe are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot becontent to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to payparticular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who arecompetent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. Makeevery effort to study conscientiously, to develop your talents and to put themat the service of others even now. Find ways to help make society more just andhumane wherever you happen to be. May your entire life be guided by a spirit ofservice and not by the pursuit of power, material success and money.

Speakingof generosity, I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy wefeel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. Dearyoung people, do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious,monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that he fills withjoy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with himand to devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others. In thesame way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally toone another in marriage in order to build a family and to be signs of Christ’slove for the Church.

Letme remind you of a third element that will lead you to the joy of love. It isallowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities.There is a close bond between communion and joy. It is not by chance that Saint Paul’s exhortation:“Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) is written in the plural, addressingthe community as a whole, rather than its individual members. Only when we aretogether in the communion of fellowship do we experience this joy. In the Actsof the Apostles, the first Christian community is described in these words:“Breaking bread in their homes, they ate their meals with exultation andsincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46). I ask you to make every effort to help ourChristian communities to be special places of sharing, attention and concernfor one another.

5. The joy of conversion

Dearfriends, experiencing real joy also means recognizing the temptations that leadus away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediategoals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more thanperseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. The messages it sends pusha consumerist mentality and promise false happiness. Experience teaches us thatpossessions do not ensure happiness. How many people are surrounded by materialpossessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness and emptiness! Tohave lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God.

Godwants us to be happy. That is why he gave us specific directions for thejourney of life: the commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path tolife and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list ofprohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely,we see in the light of Christ’s message that the commandments are a set ofessential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’splan. How often, on the other hand, do we see that choosing to build our livesapart from God and his will brings disappointment, sadness and a sense offailure. The experience of sin, which is the refusal to follow God and anaffront to his friendship, brings gloom into our hearts.

Attimes the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to theLord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in his mercynever abandons us; he always offers us the possibility of returning to him,being reconciled with him and experiencing the joy of his love which forgivesand welcomes us back.

Dearyoung people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance andReconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered. Ask the Holy Spiritfor the light needed to acknowledge your sinfulness and to ask for God’sforgiveness. Celebrate this sacrament regularly, with serenity and trust. TheLord will always open his arms to you. He will purify you and bring you intohis joy: for there is joy in heaven even for one sinner who repents (cf. Lk15:7).


6. Joy at times of trial

Inthe end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is reallypossible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which aremost tragic and mysterious. We wonder whether following the Lord and puttingour trust in him will always bring happiness.

Wecan find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselveswho have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even indifficult situations. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) experiencedmany trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that lefthim deeply hurt. In the midst of this situation he wrote to his sister: “Youask me if I am happy. How could I not be? As long as faith gives me strength, Iam happy. A Catholic could not be other than happy... The goal for which wewere created involves a path which has its thorns, but it is not a sad path. Itis joy, even when it involves pain” (Letter to his sister Luciana, Turin, 14February 1925). When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as amodel for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectiousjoy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life” (Address to YoungPeople, Turin, 13 April 1980).

Closerto us in time is Chiara Badano (1971-1990), who was recently beatified. Sheexperienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped injoy. At the age of eighteen, while suffering greatly from cancer, Chiara prayedto the Holy Spirit and interceded for the young people of the movement to whichshe belonged. As well as praying for her own cure, she asked God to enlightenall those young people by his Spirit and to give them wisdom and light. “It wasreally a moment of God’s presence. I was suffering physically, but my soul wassinging” (Letter to Chiara Lubich, Sassello, 20 December 1989). The key to herpeace and joy was her complete trust in the Lord and the acceptance of herillness as a mysterious expression of his will for her sake and that ofeveryone. She often said: “Jesus, if you desire it, then I desire it too”.

Theseare just two testimonies taken from any number of others which show thatauthentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced withdifficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality,but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of dailylife. We know that the crucified and risen Christ is here with us and that heis a faithful friend always. When we share in his sufferings, we also share inhis glory. With him and in him, suffering is transformed into love. And therewe find joy (cf. Col1:24).


7. Witnesses of joy

Dearfriends, to conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannotbe happy if others are not. Joy has to be shared. Go and tell other youngpeople about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus himself. Wecannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must giveit away. Saint Johnsaid: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too mayhave fellowship with us; we are writing this so that our joy may be complete”(1 Jn 1:3-4).

Christianityis sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goesagainst our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth.Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they arenot alone. They know that God is always holding them in his hands. It is up toyou, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happinessand a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at timesappears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happyside of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each ofus is important to him. Show the world that this is true!

Beenthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are sufferingand those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow.Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplacesand your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious. Youwill receive a hundredfold: the joy of salvation for yourselves, and the joy ofseeing God’s mercy at work in the hearts of others. And when you go to meet theLord on that last day, you will hear him say: “Well done, my good and faithfulservant... Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).

Maythe Blessed Virgin Mary accompany you on this journey. She welcomed the Lordwithin herself and proclaimed this in a song of praise and joy, the Magnificat:“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God mySaviour” (Lk 1:46-47). Mary responded fully to God’s love by devoting her lifeto him in humble and complete service. She is invoked as “Cause of our Joy”because she gave us Jesus. May she lead you to that joy which no one will everbe able to take away from you!


From the Vatican,15 March 2012




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