The Message for the 32nd World Youth Day was issued today centred on “The ‘great things’ that the Almighty accomplished’.” In her meeting with Elizabeth, Mary becomes a model. The pontiff calls on young people to avoid being couch potatoes, safe and cosy, urges them to rediscover the relationship with seniors. The Church experience is not a flash mob. The future should be experienced in a constructive way, and “the institutions of marriage, consecrated life and priestly mission” should not be devalued.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis in his message for the 32nd World Youth Day, which takes place at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday (9 April), urges young people to “press forward, not only cherishing the memory of the past, but also [have] courage in the present and hope for the future”.
The pontiff calls on young people not to be couch potatoes paralysed by fear or easy living, urging them to discover the “big things, the Lord has done for each of us.” For him, young people should nurture memories, not reducing the life and experience of the Church to a flash mob. They should cultivate prayers and the relationship with seniors, discover God’s calling to marriage or the religious life, without reducing existence to “a reality show, without aim or purpose”.
Today’s message comes halfway between last year’s WYD in Kraków and next year’s in Panama. “This year (2017) we will reflect on the faith of Mary, who says in the Magnificat: ‘The Mighty One has done great things for me’ (Lk 1:49). The theme for next year (2018) – ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God’ (Lk 1:30) – will lead us to meditate on the courageous charity with which the Virgin welcomed the message of the angel. The 2019 World Youth Day will be inspired by the words ‘I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38), Mary’s hope-filled reply to the angel.”
“In October 2018, the Church will celebrate the Synod of Bishops on the theme: Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. We will talk about how you, as young people, are experiencing the life of faith amid the challenges of our time. We will also discuss the question of how you can develop a life project by discerning your personal vocation, whether it be to marriage in the secular and professional world, or to the consecrated life and priesthood. It is my hope that the journey towards the World Youth Day in Panama and the process of preparation for the Synod will move forward in tandem.”
Young people as couch potatoes
The message starts with the evangelical story of the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-56). Mary’s journey towards Elizabeth’s town (a distance of 150 km) is taken as a counter example of the life of inaction and resignation. “Mary does not shut herself up at home or let herself be paralyzed by fear or pride. Mary is not the type that, to be comfortable, needs a good sofa where she can feel safe and sound. She is no couch potato! (cf. Address at the Vigil, Kraków, 30 July 2016). If her elderly cousin needs a hand, she does not hesitate, but immediately sets off.”
The meeting with her cousin, in a mutual witness of faith, leads to the Magnificat, which includes “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (v. 49), hence the title of the message.
“Mary’s is a revolutionary prayer, the song of a faith-filled young woman conscious of her limits, yet confident in God’s mercy. She gives thanks to God for looking upon her lowliness and for the work of salvation that he has brought about for the people, the poor and the humble.”
“The ‘great things’ that the Almighty accomplished in the life of Mary speak also to our own journey in life, which is not a meaningless meandering, but a pilgrimage that, for all its uncertainties and sufferings, can find its fulfilment in God (cf. Angelus, 15 August 2015). You may say to me: “But Father, I have my limits, I am a sinner, what can I do?” When the Lord calls us, he doesn’t stop at what we are or what we have done. On the contrary, at the very moment that he calls us, he is looking ahead to everything we can do, all the love we are capable of giving. Like the young Mary, you can allow your life to become a means for making the world a better place. Jesus is calling you to leave your mark in life, your mark on history, both your own and that of so many others (cf. Address at the Vigil, Kraków, 30 July 2016).
Not like a flash mob
“Mary was little more than an adolescent, like many of you. Yet in the Magnificat, she echoes the praises of her people and their history.” This shows how important it is to share the experience of the Church.
“The genuine experience of the Church is not like a flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing and then go their separate ways. The Church is heir to a long tradition which, passed down from generation to generation, is further enriched by the experience of each individual. Your personal history has a place within the greater history of the Church.”
The memory of the past, including one’s own with one’s errors, is not a trap. “The pearl is born of a wound in the oyster! Jesus, by his love, can heal our hearts and turn our lives into genuine pearls. As Saint Paul said, the Lord can show his power through our weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12:9).
History is not a reality show
Preserving the memory of “the events of our lives” means putting them together, reconstructing “the unity of all the fragments that, put together, can make up, a mosaic.” Although “Many people say that young people are distracted and superficial,” it is important to rediscover those memories and facts that “are significant for our hearts and help to give meaning to our lives”.
“Television is full of ‘reality shows’ which are not real stories, but only moments passed before a television camera by characters living from day to day, without a greater plan. Don’t let yourselves be led astray by this false image of reality! Be the protagonists of your history; decide your own future.”
Tied to traditions
It is fundamental to be connected to the historical tradition and the prayer of those who have come before us. “To do so, it is important to be familiar with the Bible, God’s word, reading it daily and letting it speak to your lives, and interpreting everyday events in the light of what the Lord says to you in the sacred Scriptures. In prayer and in the prayerful reading of the Bible (lectio divina), Jesus will warm your hearts and illumine your steps, even in the dark moments of life (cf. Lk 24:13-35).
“In the process of living, today’s prayers become tomorrow’s reasons for thanksgiving. In this way, your participation in Holy Mass and the occasions when you celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be both a high point and new beginning. Your lives will be renewed each day in forgiveness and they will become an act of perennial praise to the Almighty.”
Relating to seniors, as Mary did with Elizabeth, is fundamental. “[W]hat about you? Do you realize how extraordinarily enriching the encounter between the young and the elderly can be? How much attention do you pay to the elderly, to your grandparents? With good reason you want to ‘soar’, your heart is full of great dreams, but you need the wisdom and the vision of the elderly. Spread your wings and fly, but also realize that you need to rediscover your roots and to take up the torch from those who have gone before […] As Mary did with Elizabeth, look to the elderly, to your grandparents. They will speak to you of things that can thrill your minds and fill your hearts.”
Towards the future with vocations
Appreciating the importance of tradition does not mean “being traditionalists” or “nostalgic”, or cultivating a “paralyzing memory”. It means instead “going back to essentials and throwing ourselves with creative fidelity into building the future.”
“A society that values only the present tends to dismiss everything inherited from the past, as for example the institutions of marriage, consecrated life and priestly mission. These end up being seen as meaningless and outdated forms. People think it is better to live in ‘open’ situations, going through life as if it were a reality show, without aim or purpose. Don’t let yourselves be deceived! God came to enlarge the horizons of our life in every direction.”
By entrusting their journey to Mary’s intercession, Francis asks young people “to keep in mind two important anniversaries in 2017: the three-hundredth anniversary of the finding of the image of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil and the centenary of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, where, God willing, I plan to make a pilgrimage this coming May.”
Citing the example of Saint Martin of Porres, who “used to offer the best flowers to Mary, as a sign of his filial love,” the Holy Father told young people, “May you too cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady, entrusting to her your joys, your worries and your concerns. I assure you that you will not regret it!”