Friday, December 14, 2007

Open the Window of Your Hearts and Be Transformed by the Light and Joy of the Holy Spirit

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Address to the University Students of Rome
St. Peter's Basilica
December 13, 2007

Dear university youth, allow me to offer you at this familial encounter two brief reflections.

The first addressed the course of your spiritual formation. The Diocese of Rome has highlighted the preparation of university youth for Holy Confirmation. Thus, your pilgrimage to Assisi last November 10 represented the moment of 'calling' and tonight is your 'response.'

In fact, some 150 among you have applied as candidates for the Sacrament of Confirmation, which they will receive on the vigil of Pentecost. This is a very relevant initiative that fits very well into the itinerary of preparation for the World Youth Day to be held in Sydney in July 2008.

To these candidates for Confirmation, and to all of you, dear young friends, I wish to say: turn your attention to the Virgin Mary and from her Yes, learn to say your own Yes to the divine calling. The Holy Spirit enters our life to the degree that we open our heart with our Yes: the fuller this Yes is, the fuller will be the gift of his presence.

To better understand this, we can refer to a very simple fact: light. If the windows are hermetically sealed, the sun, no matter how bright, will never enter the house. If there is a small fissure, then a ray of light enters; if the shutter is opened a little bit more, the room begins to light up; but only when the shutters are completely thrown open will the sun illuminate and warm the room.

Dear friends, Mary was greeted by the angel with the words 'full of grace' which means this: her heart and her life were totally open to God and therefore completely pervaded by his grace. May she help you to give your full and free Yes to God, so that you may be renewed, or better yet, transformed by the light and joy of the Holy Spirit.

The second reflection that I wished to offer is my recent encyclical on Christian hope entitled, as you know, Spe salvi - saved in hope - words taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans (8,24). I offer it to you symbolically, dear university students of Rome, and through you, to the entire world of the universities, schools, culture and education. The theme of hope, I think, would be particularly congenial to young people.

In particular, I invite you to reflect and confront - in discussion groups, even - the part of the encyclical in which I wrote about hope in the modern era. In the 17th century, Europe underwent an authentic epochal turn, and since then, has gone on affirming ever more a mentality according to which human progress can only be the product of science and technology, while faith can only be concerned with the salvation of the soul, a salvation that is purely personal.

The two great motivating ideas of modernity - reason and freedom - were dissociated from God to become autonomous forces that would work together to construct a 'kingdom of man', virtually in opposition to the Kingdom of God. Thus, the spread of a materialistic concept, nourished by the hope that, by changing economic and political structures, there would finally be a just society, in which peace, liberty and equality would reign.

This process, which is not without its values and historical reasons, nevertheless contained a fundamental error: man, in fact, is not just the product of specific social and economic conditions; technological progress does not necessarily come with the moral growth of humanity, but rather, without ethical principles, science, technology and politics may be used - as it has and as it continues to be unfortunately - not for good but for evil, and not just of the individual but all mankind.

Dear friends, these are themes that are so actual today that they should stimulate your reflection and favor even more the positive confrontation and collaboration which now exists among all the state, private and pontifical universities in Rome.

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