MANILA, July 28, 2013—As youth all over the world gathered in a momentous church celebration officiated by the Supreme Pontiff, a Catholic prelate has called on young Filipinos to shun self-centeredness from their lives and offer themselves to the fulfillment of God’s plan.
In the local World Youth Day (WYD) celebration held simultaneously with the same international gathering in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado recognized the important role played by the youth in today’s world and said they must strive to be effective heralds of the mission of new evangelization.
“Let us spread the good news that there is a Lord who loves us unconditionally. Know and follow His son, Jesus Christ, who serves as the best example on how we could get closer to Him,” Mercado said, addressing the thousands of youth who attended the local WYD held at Don Bosco Technical Institute in Makati.
He also recognized the importance of the celebration, noting that not even distance could hinder the youth from all over the world in uniting as one in this historic gathering.
“How wonderful it is that despite the distance, we are united in a very special way to reflect, pray, praise the Lord, and express support to those who are celebrating the World Youth Day in Brazil,” he said.
Approximately 4,000 individuals from various dioceses, parishes, and youth groups from different parts of the country participated in the gathering organized by the National Capital Region Youth Coordinating Council, Federation of National Youth Organizations, and Military Ordinariate of the Philippines.
Life as a paradox
Mercado described life as a paradox when he said that those who selfishly pursue self-gratifying means will never succeed and those who selflessly offer themselves will eventually thrive.
“Life is a paradox,” he said, referring to the type of argument that contains self-contradictory propositions that are yet accepted as true. “If you try to seek what you only want to get out of life, you will never find yourself. But if you give yourself even to the point of giving up your life for the sake of others, you will find yourself.”
“It is in giving up that you will find, and by looking at things only for yourself you will never find the secret of happiness, completion, self-growth, and maturity the way Jesus taught us,” he added.
Mercado urged the youth to veer away from the slavery of sin by following the footsteps of Christ and embracing their cross to attain the fullness of their lives.
“If you want to embrace the cross and the fullness of life, we have to let go of our self-centeredness,” he said.
“This is a good way of reminding us that we, too, are asked to move from the slavery of sin. In Jesus, with Jesus, and through Jesus, we have been saved from a life of self-centeredness, from a life of seeking only what is good for ourselves,” he added.
Mercado noted that because of God’s unconditional love to His people, He desires to share His own life to them so they may also attain the fullness He possesses.
“God has only one desire—that who He has created would share his own life. The movement of love is the act of sharing whatever you have so that others may enjoy the fullness of your own life,” he said.
Love as an act of sacrifice
Mercado said that in finding one’s self-worth, the youth must learn to look within their inner selves as real beauty could only be seen from within.
“Our own beauty, goodness, and importance will be found not outside ourselves but within us…If you want to find God, look inside yourself. Deep in the heart of each one, we will find God,” he said.
The prelate noted that the youth must strive to improve their capacity to express love for others, noting that it is through the act of loving that one may receive full growth.
“When you love you forget yourself, thereby sharpening the art of self-forgetfulness and self-giving. When you give yourself, you experience sacrifice. That is never easy, but that is how we experience real growth,” Mercado said.
“Sacrifice is part of a growing life…If you want to grow, if you want to be like His disciples, forget yourself, deny yourself, take up your cross, do not think of yourself, and do an act of love for others,” he added.
Growing one’s love can only be possible through deepening one’s faith, which can be done through knowing the scriptures and making oneself an instrument of God by giving Him control of one’s life.
“Placing oneself to the hands of God means learning to surrender one’s will, mind, heart, speech, and relationship with the Lord so He may use us in accordance to His way,” he said.
However, he warned the youth that such mission is not easy “because [those who heed the call will] always undergo persecution, misunderstanding, rejection, and at times, giving up one’s life.”
Despite this, he assured the young people that they will not be left alone in the journey.
“Stand up for Jesus. Don’t worry because at the moment you are tested, you will be given the proper strength to persevere. You will not die, but rather, even in dying physically, you will proclaim life,” he said.
Mercado urged the young people to leave a mark just like how Christ did, adding that it is through this way that people become great instruments of God.
“We are God’s pencils as Jesus is the pencil of God who made a mark as He bought to the world the faith of love to God—a God whose love is forgiving, patient, and understanding,” he said.
“Surrender your will and life. Give up your life to the Lord so He can take charge of your life. If you can do that, the mark that you will give is a mark of someone who is like Jesus in mind and heart—a true child of God,” he added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)