Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the XXXII World Day of Prayer for Vocations (1994)
Having, on various occasions, called upon young people throughout the world to meditate on Christ’s meeting with the young man (cf. Mk 10:17-22; Mt 19:16-22; Lk 18:18-23), I have already had the opportunity to underline that youth attains its true richness when it is seen principally as a time of vocational reflection.
The young man’s question: “What must I do to have eternal life?” uncovers a constitutive dimension of youth itself. The young man means, in fact: “What must I do so that my life may have meaning? What is God’s plan for my life? What is his will?”.
The dialogue which grows out of the young man’s question offers Jesus the occasion to reveal the special intensity with which God loves those who are able to pose for themselves in vocational terms the question about their own future: “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him”. The one who lives with this vocational tension, taking it seriously, finds in the heart of Christ a care which is full of tenderness. A little later Jesus also reveals God’s response to whoever lives his or her own youth as a favourable time of spiritual orientation. The response is: “Follow me!”.
It is in following Jesus that youth displays all the richness of its potentiality and acquires its full meaning.
It is in following Jesus that the young discover the sense of a life lived as a gift of self, and experience the beauty and truth of growing in love.
It is in following Jesus that they feel themselves called to communion with him as living members of a single body, which is the Church.
It is in following Jesus that it will be possible for them to understand the personal call to love: in matrimony, in the consecrated life, in the ordained ministry, in the mission ad gentes.
That dialogue shows however that Jesus’ care and tenderness can remain unanswered. And what is sad is the inheritance of life choices which distance us from him.
How many motives, even today, hold back adolescents and young people from living the truth of their age in generous adherence to Christ. How many still do not know of whom to ask that question the “rich young man” put to Jesus! How many people’s young days are at risk of losing out on an authentic growth!
And yet how many expectations! The desire to give a meaning to its existence remains strong in the heart of every new generation. In the course of their journey young people look for someone who will know how to speak with them about the problems which worry them and to propose solutions, values, perspectives which are worth staking one’s future on.
What is needed today is a Church which knows how to respond to the expectations of young people. Jesus wants to enter into dialogue with them and, through his Body which is the Church, to propose the possibility of a choice which will require a commitment of their lives. As Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus, so the Church must become today the traveling companion of young people, who are often marked by confusion, resistance and contradictions, in order to announce to them the ever-astonishing “news” of the risen Christ.
This is what is needed: a Church for young people, which will know how to speak to their heart and enkindle, comfort, and inspire enthusiasm in it with the joy of the Gospel and the strength of the Eucharist; a Church which will know how to invite and to welcome the person who seeks a purpose for which to commit his whole existence; a Church which is not afraid to require much, after having given much; which does not fear asking from young people the effort of a noble and authentic adventure, such as that of the following of the Gospel.