On March 15th Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the abundant fruits of World Youth Days that Pope John Paul II began 25 years ago.

Zenit, the Vatican News Agency, reported the following (my comments follow):

“Taking up one of the principle themes of his pontificate, Benedict XVI reiterated that in “the Lord’s look is the heart of the very special encounter and of all the Christian experience. In fact, Christianity is not primarily a morality, but [an] experience of Jesus Christ, who loves us personally, young and old, poor and rich; he loves us even when we turn our back to him.””

Today, there are so many young people and adults(i.e., parents) who have been poorly formed in their understanding of the Gospel and the Catholic Faith.  Not only do they have many misunderstandings about being Catholic but they have never really had a profound encounter with Christ and never learned how to foster a relationship with Him.  I think many are lukewarm about attending Mass or going to the sacraments because they do not understand what they are missing.  They are inclined to pick and choose those spiritual and religious aspects that they like and push aside the rest.  Also, they’ve heard that God loves them and have probably been told that numerous times in their life but they have never had a personal encounter that has impacted them.

Pope Benedict XVI continues: “In this love is found the source of the whole of Christian life and the fundamental reason of evangelization”.  If we have truly encountered Jesus, we cannot do other than witness him to those who have not yet crossed his look!”

The Holy Father encourages more than encountering Christ, but also focuses on the need to be a witness to a world that desperately needs the Gospel Message shared with them so that they themselves can come to experience Christ.  True freedom is what people want, not shallow notions or promises that help one “feel” like they are doing okay.  If they never receive more they will never draw closer to Christ and see why being a follower of Christ is greater than anything else life has to offer.

A few things on what we can do to continue to foster greater encounter to Christ:

1) Catechists should seek not only to pass on the information of the topic of the day’s lesson, but this Catholic Faith that we are passing on, this knowledge of Christ our Savior should draw students into the story of faith and inspire them to want to grow in their love of God and neighbor.  The more students are engaged the more disposed they become to encountering Christ in times of prayer and reflection in class.

2) We should seek to invite parents to a parish retreat where they can take the next step in their spiritual journey.

3) Invite parents, youth and young adults to a faith formation class or Bible study going on at your parish or a neighboring parish. The more we are fed in our faith the greater our desire to know Christ and  become more like Him.

4) Pray that the Holy Spirit will be present in their lives and assist them, in whatever way He chooses,  to have a spiritual encounter/experience.