Address by Monsignor Paul Russell
Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Holy See
On the occasion of the Taiwan Youth Day
Taipei, Tuesday 24 August 2010
Dear Fathers, Sisters, and seminarians,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear Young Catholics of Taiwan,
May the peace of Christ be with you!
Last November, the Church in Taiwan celebrated its 150th Anniversary. Maybe some of you were there. Some people are saying that the Church in Taiwan is old – and maybe a little tired. But I look at you and I say that the Church in Taiwan is young! The Church in Taiwan is enthusiastic!
I also want to tell you that the pope knows about Youth Day in Taiwan. He told the Bishops that Youth Day in Taiwan is “a sign of hope.” As we gather here, you should know that the pope sees you as a sign of hope. The pope wants you to know that he loves you and he is praying for you.
Now, I would like to offer you just a little reflection concerning the theme of this year’s World Youth Day: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). The encounter between Jesus and the rich young man is one of the most poignant in all of Scripture, characterized by dramatic possibilities and a dramatic failure. There is a burning question and a very clear command.
The burning question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’ response is on two levels. He says first: “You know the commandments.” The first step toward eternal life is faithful observance of the commandments. Already this is quite a lot, but somehow it is not enough. There is another, deeper level: “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’”
The rich young man is a good person; he is keeping all the commandments. But the problem is that he prefers his wealth to following Jesus. It is not correct to say that he had a lot of money; in fact, his money had him. He did not own his possessions; his possessions owned him. Jesus is looking at this wealthy young man with love, inviting him to a fuller life, but this wealthy man, owned by what he owned, “goes away sad”.
Dear friends, each one of us here carries within our hearts the burning question: “What must I do to have life?” Jesus looks at each of us with love, and he tells us: keep the commandments. And then he tells us: “Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor…then come, follow me.” This does not mean that we all have literally to go sell everything. It does mean that Jesus wants us to be free from being owned by what we own, and he wants us to follow him in love of others and giving of ourselves. He wants us to be able to give when we need to give. God wants us to use what he has given us with energy, enthusiasm and creativity; God wants us to care passionately. And God wants us to be willing to “give things away” when necessary.
I lived three years in Switzerland. The patron saint of Switzerland is Saint Nicholas of Flüe. He is an example of a saint who left everything to follow Jesus. He composed a very simple and beautiful prayer, which we can pray and ask God to give us the grace to make our own:
My Lord and my God, take everything from me that keeps me from you!
My Lord and my God, give everything to me that brings me nearer to you!
My Lord and my God, take me away from myself and give me completely to you!