Vatican City, 30 November 2013 (VIS) – This afternoon in St. Peter's Basilica the Holy Father presided at the first vespers of the first Sunday of Advent with students from the Roman universities. Before the arrival of the Pope, around 4 p.m., Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general, welcomed the image of Maria “Sedes Sapientiae”, patron of university students, and guided the preparatory prayer for the renewal of the profession of faith of the young people who are to be confirmed.
After the prayer of the Rosary, the Pope pronounced a homily, commenting on the letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians in which he expresses his wish that God might sanctify him unto perfection. This wish, said the Pope, “demonstrates on the one hand his concern for his holiness, and on the other, his great confidence in the Lord's intervention. This concern on the part of the apostle is also valid for us, today's Christians. The fullness of Christian life … is always besieged by the temptation to surrender to the worldly spirit. For this reason God gives us his help, by which we are able to persevere and preserve the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, the new life … But why, after offering us his spiritual treasures, does God have to intervene again to maintain their integrity? … Because we are weak … our human nature is frail and God's gifts are conserved in us, as if in 'earthen vessels'”.
God's intervention in favour of our efforts “until the definitive encounter with Jesus, is an expression of his fidelity. It is like a dialogue between our weakness and his fidelity. … Therefore, he brings to completion the work that he has initiated in each one of us, by his call to us. This gives us security and great trust: a trust that is … upheld by God and which requires our active and courageous collaboration, faced with the challenges of the present moment”.
He continued, “Those who do not face these challenges, who do not rise up to them, do not live. Your will and your capacities, united with the power of the Holy Spirit which lives in each one of you from the day of your Baptism, allows you to be more than mere spectators – to be active agents in contemporary events. Please, do not look upon life from the balcony, as an observer! Get involved, where there are challenges, where your help is needed to work for life, development, the fight for the dignity of persons, the struggle against poverty, the battle for values, and the many other battles we encounter every day”.
The challenges that university students are called upon to face “with inner strength and evangelical boldness” take various forms. “The social-cultural context of which you are a part is at times weighed down by mediocrity and boredom. You must not resign yourselves to the monotony of everyday life, but rather cultivate broad-ranging plans, go beyond the ordinary; do not allow yourselves to be robbed of your youthful enthusiasm! It would also be a mistake to allow yourselves to be imprisoned by the weak and uniform thought, that which conforms, or indeed by a globalisation understood as uniformity”.
To overcome this risk, “the model to be followed in true globalisation – which is a good thing – is not that of the sphere, in which every irregularity is smoothed over and all differences disappear – but rather that of the polyhedron, which includes multiple elements and respects unity in variety. In defending unity, we also defend diversity. The contrary to that unity would not be human. … If you do not allow yourselves to be conditioned by dominant opinions, but remain faithful to Christian ethical and religious principles, you will find the courage to swim against the tide. In our globalised world, you are able to contribute to safeguarding peculiarities and specific characteristics, seeking however not to lower ethical levels. Indeed, the plurality of thought and individuality reflect the multiform knowledge of God when it approaches truth with honesty and intellectual rigour, when it draws close to goodness and to beauty, so that each person can be a gift to the benefit of all”.
The Pope concluded by encouraging the students in their “commitment to walk the path of faith and to behave in a manner consistent with the Gospel”, in order that it might accompany them in this time of Advent, and so they might “live in an authentic way the commemoration of the Nativity of the Lord”.