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In one sentence, the Holy Father has summarized what the Lord has been teaching us in the 3 years since the CFC crisis of 2007, as reflected in our themes for the year.

In 2008 our theme was joy (Zep 3:17). God had raised a remnant and had heard the prayer for restoration of His people. In "Our Theme for 2008," I wrote this: "We had been unfaithful to our covenant. We had been rebellious. But now we have been purified and we have been restored. In CFC-FFL we are a remnant humbled and made lowly (Zep 3:12). Those who speak lies and have a deceitful tongue have been removed (Zep 3:13). We have no further misfortune to fear (Zep 3:15). Indeed, the Lord has brought about our restoration (Zep 3:19,20). The fruit of lamentations is restoration, which brings hope, and with hope is joy."

In 2009 our theme was trust (Is 12:2). In Part 1 of "Our Theme for 2009," I wrote this: "God is continuing to form us, to be a holy remnant, and ultimately to become the families He intended us to become, that He could use to renew the face of the earth. The call to holiness means constant purification, and a determination to go the way of the cross of Jesus Christ. There will be great challenges and trials, there will be human disappointments and frustrations, but we are to trust in Him totally."

In 2010, our theme from Job 37:23 has taught us much about redemptive suffering, taking off from the story of Job. In Part 1 of "Our Theme for 2010," I wrote this: "Suffering of course is the very way God chose for His Son Jesus. That is the mystery of the cross. God loves His Son, and God loves us His children. Just as He allowed Jesus to suffer, so He allows us. Such suffering is redemptive. Gold is purified through fire. In His love for us and in His inscrutable wisdom, God is always working in us to accomplish His very plan and purpose. Thus such suffering is cause not for lamentations but for joy."

Joy, trust, suffering -- all intimately connected. All are very much the crucial aspects of the mystery that is God's working among us. Let us then continue to embrace the cross of Jesus and allow suffering to purify us, while in all this we continue to trust in him who suffered and died for us and now calls us to proclaim that salvation to the world, and amidst all the challenges of our life and work let us always be mindful of the wonderful privilege God has accorded us and thus keep joy in our hearts.

Joy Doesn't Exclude Humanity's Suffering, Says Pope

Sends Message to Taizé Youth

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 ( Joy is intimately related to trust in God, and does not exclude solidarity with the sufferings of humanity, according to Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this in a message sent on his behalf to the community of Taizé, as it prepares for the 33rd young adult European meeting, to be held this year in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The Dec. 28-Jan. 1 event is expected to bring 30,000 young people to the city, at the invitation of the Bishops Conference of the Netherlands, the General Council of the Dutch Protestant Church and the Netherlands Council of Churches.

The Holy Father expressed his wish that God will guide the participants to the "wellsprings of joy." And he noted that "this joy does not take you away from solidarity with the sufferings of humanity, but is intimately related to trust in God. By living in this trust, by welcoming it, you permit this radical renewal of the human being that Christ came to bring."

The papal message said that in this way, the young people "will be filled with the courage to swim against the stream when necessary."

"Not giving in to the mirage of individualism, you will become ever more men and women of communion, through the gift of yourselves for others," he said.

Radiating outward

Some 150 churches will host the youth in the mornings of the meeting. For the afternoons of the 5-day event, the young people will join at an exhibition center for meals and prayer.

Benedict XVI's note expresses a prayer that when the young people have returned to their countries, they might be filled by the Holy Spirit with "boundless compassion."

"[M]ay he communicate to you imagination and courage so you can discover how to transform your local communities into places of heartfelt kindness and trust," the Pope said. "The peace he will give you will thus radiate outwards for others and for the world."

The Pontiff also invited the young people to join him next August in Madrid for World Youth Day.

Working together

Other religious and civic leaders have also sent messages to the young people for the meeting.

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople reflected on the virtue of compassion. His message affirmed: "Finding strength in the incarnation of Christ, God made man, compassion not only brings together realities which are oh so different, even contradictory, but it makes the life of our neighbor a constitutive element of our own lives. Suffering, disease and poverty, when shared, bring their victims out of isolation.

"The despotic oppression of an exaggerated individualism must be overcome so that its dignity is restored to the human face."

Ban Ki Moon, U.N. secretary-general, made a call for teamwork. He made this reflection: "I trust you have all heard the saying, 'united we stand, divided we fall.' That adage captures this moment in international affairs. No single country or group, no matter how powerful, can take on the major issues of the day alone. In an era when challenges spill over borders and have global reach, our future depends on how well we work together."

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"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21)

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