Stake Your Lives on It

by Pope John Paul II

These words are as stirring now as they were when they were given at the papal Mass at World Youth Day Toronto, July 28, 2002. And they don’t only speak to youth.


The spirit of the world offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love.

The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.

The Lord is calling you to choose between these two voices competing for your souls.

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68). Jesus, the intimate friend of every young person, has the words of life.

The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of brotherhood and human solidarity.

It is a world which needs to be touched and healed by the beauty and richness of God’s love. It needs witnesses to that love. It needs you—to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Salt is used to preserve and keep. As apostles for the third millennium, our task is to preserve and keep alive the awareness of the presence of our Savior Jesus Christ, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, the memorial of his saving death and glorious resurrection.

You must keep alive the memory of the words of life which he spoke and the marvelous works of mercy and goodness which he performed.

You must constantly remind the world of the power of the Gospel to save (Rom 1:16).

Salt seasons and improves the flavor of food. Following Jesus, you have to change and improve the “taste” of human history. With your faith, hope, and love, with your intelligence, courage, and perseverance, you have to humanize the world we live in, in the way that today’s reading from Isaiah indicates:

Loose the bonds of injustice… Share your bread with the hungry… Remove the pointing of the finger,  Then your light shall rise in the darkness (Is 58:6-10).

Even a tiny flame lifts the heavy lid of night. How much more light will you make, all together, if you bond as one in the communion of the Church! If you love Jesus, love the Church.

Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame.

But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good.

[You know] many priests, seminarians, and consecrated persons. Be close to them and support them. And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the cross.

At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. You are young, and the pope is old and a bit tired. But he still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations.

Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear, is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young.

Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.