I Attended World Youth Day in Rome In 2000 And This Is Totally True!
Finally, I would like to speak of one last feature, not to be overlooked, of the spirituality of World Youth Days, namely joy. Where does it come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But in my view, the crucial one is this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved. Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within. That is one of the wonderful experiences of World Youth Days.
Pope Benedict XVI Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2011
From Fr. Jim.....On a personal note the knowledge that I am loved and that God has a marvelous plan for my life began very early in my own life. I am so grateful for my parents bringing me forward for Baptism and taking me faithfully to Mass each and every Sunday. But it wasn't just my parents but a great number of the "cloud of witnesses" who encouraged and cheered me along the way. My Aunt Lynn will always remain a cherished and beautiful person in my life. She was my Godparent. And I will never forget her taking me to Mass on Sunday while she was battling her cancer that eventually took her life. I watched her kneel down after Communion with her eyes closed and thinking to myself, "What can she possibly be thinking? She is terribly ill with cancer yet her face looks so peaceful." Even then the Lord was showing me that His grace prevails. I didn't quite understand all that back then as a 15 year old, but I understand now the joy being with Jesus brings.
Let's face it, we aren't spared from suffering while on this earth. Some people get tremendous sufferings while others don't seem to suffer as much. The bottom line is that faith in the Lord transforms the sufferings and solidifies the truth that God's love is stronger than anything we can encounter on this earth. The very event I thought would put a wedge between me and the Lord, He used to literally bring me to my knees in my own poverty to surrender my heart to Him and ask Him for His help. That decision has forever changed my life.
The greatest sorrow I have experienced over the past 21 years in my service as a priest, is the crisis of faith we are in as a Church and as a world. The sentence I just shared with you in this Daily Thought, "If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all." This is the greatest crisis and threat to humanity in every generation. Everyone is loved and willed by God. We must affirm this. But only a person who has experienced this TRUTH can do so.
No one is ever too far gone to awaken and come to the Lord, and our little efforts (anointed by the Holy Spirit) will bring great fruits for the Kingdom of God. You may never see the results of your efforts but don't despair when you make an effort to win someone for Christ. Little things mean a lot. Someone just recently shared with me when they were at the end of their rope and thinking that God had abandoned them, while at a drive-through at Starbucks, the worker informed the person that someone had just paid for their order. That gesture of love served as a powerful reminder the Lord was still with them. Little things really do mean a lot!
Join me in prayer today and everyday that we will not miss the opportunities God is giving us to win people back and be a sign of God's immense love for the poor and lonely souls who are in despair. Little things always mean a lot. And there will be a lot of beautiful surprises in heaven when we went out of our way to love people in Christ but didn't see the effect it had in their lives.
I pray all of you who subscribe to the Daily Thought will be encouraged this day and not lose hope. We are blessed, we are loved, and we have a glorious future to look forward to.
Fr. Jim Northrop