You Are the Light of the World

by Pope St. John Paul II

In this Toronto World Youth Day talk, the pope was speaking to youth, but, of course, it’s not only they who are lights.

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You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world (Mt 5:13-14).

It is our nature to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of life. Do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals!

You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord, you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.

You are the light of the world (Mt 5:14). The light which Jesus speaks of in the Gospel is the light of faith, God’s free gift, which enlightens the heart and clarifies the mind.

That is why the words of Jesus explaining his identity and his mission are so important: I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).

Our personal encounter with Christ bathes life in new light, sets us on the right path, and sends us out to be his witnesses.

This new way of looking at the world and at people, which comes to us from him, leads us more deeply into the mystery of faith, which is not just a collection of theoretical assertions to be accepted and approved by the mind, but an experience to be had, a truth to be lived, the salt and light of all reality (cf. Veritatis Splendor, 88).

In this secularized age, when many of our contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist or are attracted to irrational forms of religion, it is you who must show that faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life.

You are the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13).

For a long time, salt was used to preserve food. As the salt of the earth, you are called to preserve the faith which you have received and to pass it on intact to others.

Discover your Christian roots, learn about the Church’s history, deepen your knowledge of the spiritual heritage which has been passed on to you, follow in the footsteps of the witnesses and teachers who have gone before you!

And only by staying faithful to God’s commandments, to the Covenant which Christ sealed with his blood poured out on the Cross, will you be the apostles and witnesses of the new millennium.

Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life’s decisions and plans! Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever you work and live you will be signs of God’s love, credible witnesses to the loving presence of Jesus Christ.

Never forget: No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel (Mt 5:15).

Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God’s glory.

How many saints can we count in the Church’s history! In their love for God, their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all.

But not everyone can see the light. Ours is the wonderful and demanding task of becoming its reflection.

Yes, now is the time for mission! In your dioceses and parishes, in your movements, associations, and communities, Christ is calling you. The Church welcomes you and wishes to be your home and your school of communion and prayer.

Study the Word of God and let it enlighten your minds and hearts. Draw strength from the sacramental grace of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Visit the Lord in that heart to heart contact that is Eucharistic Adoration.

Day after day, you will receive new energy to help you to bring comfort to the suffering and peace to the world.

Many people are wounded by life: they are excluded from economic progress and are without a home, a family, a job; there are people who are lost in a world of false illusions, or have abandoned all hope.

By contemplating the light radiant on the face of the Risen Christ, you will learn to live as children of the light and children of the day (1 Thes 5:5), and in this way you will show that the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true (Eph 5:9).

[Let us] speak of Christ as the one Savior and proclaim the universal salvation of which the Church is the sacrament.

[Share with others] the joyful tidings that Christ loves every person and brings to fulfilment every trace of goodness, beauty and truth found in the city of man. Tell the world of the happiness you have found in meeting Jesus Christ, of your desire to know him better, of how you are committed to proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth!

My blessing goes with you. And to Mary Mother of the Church I entrust each one of you, your vocation and your mission.

Excerpted and adapted from a talk by the pope at Toronto World Youth Day 2002.