because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. (Lk 4:18-19)
Objective: To strengthen the commitment to solidarity [mutual responsibility] and social justice in favor of the most vulnerable among us.
This session will help us look at the earth as a global community, a global family, a global responsibility. It may sometimes seem difficult to imagine how diverse the world really is, but think of the people you know who were born in other countries. Think of the different ways we communicate and express ourselves. It may not seem so difficult now. We are all looking for happiness, security and belonging. People in general want and have the same basic needs. Why, then, do some have more than they need and why are some lacking what they need?
Jesus came so that we would experience God's love for us and to show us a different way to love one another. Pentecost is the time in our Church when we remember that the Spirit of God came upon the disciples after Jesus' death and Resurrection. At Pentecost, the Church was officially born. The Bible tells us that when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they began to act differently. Through the Spirit they received courage to love as Jesus had taught them. This session invites us into a way of living out a renewed Pentecost by making a commitment to see beyond our local situation.
Welcome and Prayer (15 minutes)
Welcome the participants and ask them to briefly introduce themselves. Start the session with a simple prayer, including the proclamation of the Jubilee prayer and a bilingual song, such as Bob Hurd's "Envía Tu Espíritu" (Flor y Canto, #177, Oregon Catholic Press).
Sharing Our Experiences (40 minutes)
Today we are witnessing the tremendous production of many material goods. If we look at the variety of products available to us today at the flick of a click on the mouse of our computer that connects us to the world of Internet, it seems as if everyone has the same opportunity to purchase these goods. However, a simple glance at the news is enough to realize that the number of poor people is growing daily, even in rich countries like the United States. The ordinary worker in this country earns less and works more hours than twenty years ago. Some farm workers and their families cannot make visits to the doctor much less think about getting the appropriate advice from a doctor when they are sick. As a matter of fact, what the farm worker gets paid may barely provide a place to live for his family. Thousands of new immigrants work in slavery conditions in the well-known "sweatshops," that is, factories without proper ventilation, heat or air-conditioning. In countries that are not as technologically developed as the United States, there are many people without decent jobs. The result is families who live in poverty. The majority of the poor people in the world are women and children. As we begin the third millennium, the number of families living in poverty will increase even more. Many will die for lack of medicine and other medical resources. In the rapid and complex way that our world produces material goods, distributes them and sells them for profit, it may be difficult for us to see clearly how this process affects others who are not making the profit. For this reason, we must know and understand how materials and resources get produced, distributed and consumed. Who is benefiting most? We must look at this question and answer it honestly. (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 51). Pope John Paul's message The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 tells us that we are all in this together. We are all responsible for one another's lives. We are to make sure that all people in the world have what is necessary, such as food, clothing, a house to live in, education, and good health. This is an ideal opportunity to be good news for the poorest and weakest of our society. This is called the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church.
- Are there young people or families in your community who do not have the same opportunities, education, material goods that others do?
If poverty exists in your community, what might be the cause of it?
- How can your youth group respond in mutual support to situations affecting the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community where you live?
Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition (40 minutes)
Young people and their families live in poverty right in our own backyard. After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples put into action Jesus' teachings. This can be seen in the Acts of the Apostles: "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need" (Acts 2:44-45). The Church has a long tradition of promoting justice and defending the poorest and most vulnerable. This tradition is based on gospel values and is expressed in the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. All human life is a gift from God, and each person is worthy of God's love and care. The foundation of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church is based on this, that all are created equal and all have a right to have their basic needs addressed. People are more important than things, and the economy should be at the service of people. Social institutions (governments, schools, healthcare systems, corporations, etc.) are judged by their contribution to the improvement of personal life and dignity. The Church teaches that the role of government and other social institutions is to promote the common good of all members. The bishops of the United States wrote a document called Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions. This document provides a guide to understanding and living the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church:
- Everyone has the right and the responsibility to participate in society and to seek the well- being of all its members.
- Everyone has the right to life and to those goods needed for human decency—including dignified labor, a just wage, decent housing, education that respects cultural origins, and access to health care for all age levels (The Hispanic Presence in the New Evangelization in the United States, no. 22).
- The good reputation of a society is determined by the way in which the weakest and most defenseless persons are treated. The biblical passage of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) shows us clearly that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are to be placed first.
- The basic rights of workers must be protected. These include the right to work productively, to receive just and decent wages, to organize and form unions, to own private property, and to be able to work towards building up an economically stable place to live.
- We are called to protect human life and the planet on which we live, to witness to our faith in relationship to all of God's creation. We cannot ignore the well being of all that exists in this earth and our planet.
- Choose one of the five points and discuss how you or other young people might be able to work towards making sure that this teaching is carried out?
Putting Our Faith into Action (40 minutes)
Solidarity can be understood as the unity (as of a group) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards; virtue is defined as valor, a quality. The virtue of solidarity is defined by John Paul II as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 38). When our faith community brings the good news to the poor and vulnerable of our society, it is doing what Jesus did, bringing the love of God to the most forgotten person. Pope John Paul II, in his message to the young people, emphasizes the importance of the youth "to strengthen faith in Him in order to live the new life which he has given to us... to receive Jesus Christ means to accept from the Father the command to live, loving Him and our brothers and sisters, showing solidarity to everyone, without distinction" (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth, WYD 2000). Commitment to justice and peace is a necessary condition for our life of faith.
- Introduce the "Jubilee Pledge" as an excellent way to promote actions of solidarity and social justice by individuals and communities. The pledge is designed to aid and strengthen the personal and communitarian commitment to justice, charity, and peace.
- Invite participants to consider taking the pledge. The pledge is more than the mere signing of a piece of paper. It is a commitment to daily action for justice, in a spirit of solidarity.
- Consider taking the pledge with your friends and/or family or even as an entire faith community.
Gathering Our Experiences (15 minutes)
- What helped you participate in this session and what made it difficult?
- What did you learn and accept about others?
- What did you learn about your faith?
- How did people make a commitment to implement a course of action?
Celebrating Our Faith as a Community (25 minutes)
- Opening hymn/song
- Invocation or invitation to prayer
- Scriptural reading
- Prayer of thanksgiving or petition
- The Lord's Prayer
- Final prayer and sign of peace
- Closing hymn
A Catholic Commitment for the New Millennium
As disciples of Jesus in the new millennium, I/we pledge to:
Pray regularly for greater justice and peace.
Learn more about Catholic social teaching and its call to protect human life, stand with the poor, and care for creation.
Reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and disabling conditions.
Live justly in family life, school, work, the marketplace, and the political arena.
Serve those who are poor and vulnerable, sharing more time and talent.
Give more generously to those in need at home and abroad.
Advocate for public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God's creation, and build peace.
Encourage others to work for greater charity, justice, and peace.
Prepared by the Subcommittee on the Third Millennium and other committees of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference
Copyright © 1998, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction of the pledge for free distribution.
For more information on this Jubilee Pledge visit:
For Those Attending WYD 2000
In the year 2000, the new millennium, youth will meet and share experiences with young people from throughout the world. This will be a great opportunity to live together. All the participants at XV World Youth Day, 2000 will "undertake with joy the pilgrimage to Rome for this important Ecclesial appointment, which will rightly be the "Youth Jubilee." The theme chosen by John Paul II, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14) reminds us of God's desire to be with us through his Son, Jesus. God's desire is not only to come and be with us but also to stay with us from generation to generation. This includes all people of all times and all places.
The Holy Father's message to youth is a message of action, the action of living out our faith and carrying out the same mission as Jesus. What is Jesus' mission? We must live and act as sons and daughters of God, to do as Jesus did.
Suggestions and Follow Up Activities
- Develop a program that introduces youth to the day to day life experiences of ordinary workers, farm workers, the homeless, etc. by planning activities that include assisting in soup kitchens for the homeless, Habitat for Humanity projects, providing assistance with day care at migrant camps, etc.
- If the opportunity presents itself, learn of the challenges of living in solidarity and justice from other pilgrims from other countries.
- Learn a new language, that will be most helpful in communicating with others in your local community.