Dear youth and all of you, brothers and sisters gathered here,
We just read two excerpts from the Holy Bible given in today’s liturgical readings. Today, we remember one holy bishop, who was light and salt for the Church, for society and for the culture of his time. His name is St. Alphonsus Liguori. In him, we find one bright example of the splendour that only the Kingdom of God can achieve in a person striving to discover that reality, and once he finds it, he becomes its apostle and spreads this to his other brothers.
Both biblical texts, one from the Old and the other from the New Testament, are truly providential for this Eucharistic Celebration, intended in a special way for you – the youth, as the introduction to your traditional, annual Festival, which I have the honour to participate in for the first time.
Jesus wishes that we understand today how the Kingdom of God is the reality that exists for itself, regardless of our will, for it is not we who are the ones who establish or institute the Kingdom of God.
However, the Kingdom of God is something that we, human creatures, cannot live without. The Kingdom of God has something in it, something that draws us to it with such a force of attraction that our humanity would have been entirely incomplete, even deprived, if we were to lose something like the Kingdom of God.
The human being is open to the Kingdom of God in his nature and the Kingdom of God exists with the purpose of belonging to us human creatures. Our human nature has been made and organised in such a way of being directed, despite the freedom of choice given to us, towards the value of the Kingdom of God, for it is only in that value and through it, that it achieves its utter fullness.
If you, dear youth, were to descend in your thoughts into the very depths of your being, that being the process we need to take even as adults, then we would discover that at the very extremity, at the base of our being, there is a hunger and a thirst that cannot be quenched by material things or activities in which we engage, or by hobbies we practise, human relationships, money, culture, entertainment and so on….These are all realities we like, these attract us and bring us satisfaction only to a certain point. Yet, honestly, we should acknowledge that at the end of the day we are left with a certain feeling of emptiness, something we do not know how to fill.
Dear friends, this is the experience we have all the time during our journey on this earth – the experience of inner emptiness, particularly during the time of our youth, that can lead to serious dramas and some terrible consequences; each day we hear about these in newscasts about tragic accidents.
Then, we need to ask ourselves: what is the value that can fill the emptiness I feel within myself?
This was the question prophet Jeremiah asked too: “Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (Jer 15,18)
The answer the Lord gives him, in such a grave moment is for him to convert: “If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand.” (Jer 15,19)
This same Lord, later on, in the fullness of time, has clarified and fulfilled the response previously given to Jeremiah, in the parables concerning the buried treasure and the fine pearl.
These two parables are very clear: the Kingdom of God will be unexpectedly found, since it is a gift. The man in the parable did not go to the field to find the treasure, he went there just to cultivate the ground, yet he found the treasure.
A man cultivating the ground can be the symbol of all those cultivating the ground of their spirit, and in general the ground of their own personality, so that they would comprehend how to go about filling the inner emptiness we spoke about earlier on. There, this cultivating of the ground of our own person is the way leading to conversion and to the gradual, but radical changing of ourselves.
You, dear youth, you are in the most advantageous position from which to conduct this process of renewal and of change within yourselves. For you, who are a people turned toward the future, there is this holy restlessness that moves you on all levels, seeking to investigate all the answers to that inner feeling of emptiness – that being the question for each one of us.
If you cultivate the ground of your personality, the Lord will now continue helping you by unexpectedly bringing you to the ultimate and absolute value of the Kingdom of God, as the only thing capable of fulfilling your inner emptiness.
Therefore, in the amazement God evokes with His gifts, once you are full of joy, you shall discover that all that you used to be, all that you had before and all that you did before the Kingdom of God and outside His Kingdom, did not have any purpose and even more, it is worth leaving all behind, getting rid of everything so as to attain only the Kingdom of God.
Once all of this is comprehended, we need to move on, we need to continue on in the basic and definite choice in favour of discovering the Kingdom of God which you have experienced in your life as a gift, knowing, and being confident that if you seek first the Kingdom of God, all else shall be given to you. It is Jesus who gives you this safety!
To choose and to decide for the Kingdom of God does not mean to decide only for one thing or for some kind of structure. To decide for the Kingdom of God means to choose one person – Jesus, for it is only He Who can give us genuine joy, as He is the source of joy.
Let us, therefore, conclude this homily with one short prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Kingdom and our joy, please allow us and all those who have encountered You to follow You with new fervour and in the freedom of our hearts, for You are the hidden treasure of human existence, You are the fine pearl, You are everything, and, therefore, it is worth leaving all behind for Your sake. Amen. (photos)