In his homily for the Jubilee of Teens, Pope Francis asked questions and gave answers to the 70,000 present. Stressing the great ideal of love as giving oneself “without being possessive”, he noted that freedom is “being able to choose the good”. He warned young people “who dare not dream,” telling them that “If you do not dream at your age, you are already ready for retirement”. He also received funds raised for the Ukraine, and appealed for the release of bishops and the priests held in Syria.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis led a Jubilee Mass for Teens in St Peter's Square on Sunday. In his homily before some 70,000 youths gathered St Peter's square for the Jubilee of Teens, which began yesterday, the pontiff focused on “genuine love” and “tenderness” as the key elements of a Christian identity card, the only valid document to be recognised as “disciples” of Jesus.
More than a homily, Francis’ address was a dialogue with the crowd. Dressed colourfully, some in uniform or sporting fashionable eyewear, the boys and girls held up banners indicating their place of origin.
In his quasi interactive homily, questions abounded. “Do you wish to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to be his disciples? Do you wish to be his faithful friends? [. . .] Do you want to experience his love? [. . .] Do you thank the Lord every day?” he asked, sparking a round of applause.
In addition to questions, the address was full of answers as well. “The true friends of Jesus stand out essentially by the genuine love that shines forth in their way of life.” Speaking without his text, the pontiff added that when love is not genuine, it is only a “soap opera".
The pope explained the various aspects of “genuine love”. For him, “love is beautiful, it is the path to happiness. But it is not an easy path. It is demanding and it requires effort. [. . .] To love means to give, not only something material, but also something of one’s self: one’s own time, one’s friendship, one’s own abilities.” We can learn about love by looking at the Lord.
“He offers us his faithful friendship, which he will never take back. Even if you disappoint him and walk away from him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; he believes in you even more than you believe in yourself. This is very important! Because the biggest threat to growing up well comes from thinking that no one cares about us, from feeling that we are all alone. The Lord, on the other hand, is always with you and he is happy to be with you.”
Without being too explicit, Francis also spoke about affection and love, as well as virginity.
“The Lord, if you let him teach you, will show you how to make tenderness and affection even more beautiful. He will guide your hearts to ‘love without being possessive’, to love others without trying to own them but letting them be free.
“There is always a temptation to let our affections be tainted by an instinctive desire to ‘have to have’ what we find pleasing. Our consumerist culture reinforces this tendency. Yet when we hold on too tightly to something, it fades, it dies, and then we feel confused, empty inside. The Lord, if you listen to his voice, will reveal to you the secret of love. It is caring for others, respecting them, protecting them and waiting for them.”
Speaking about freedom, the pontiff took on the notion of personal autonomy, which is typical of today’s consumer society.
“Many people will say to you that freedom means doing whatever you want. But here you have to be able to say no. Freedom is not the ability simply to do what I want. This makes us self-centred and aloof, and it prevents us from being open and sincere friends. Instead, freedom is the gift of being able to choose the good. The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort.
“Only by courageous and firm decisions do we realize our greatest dreams, the dreams which it is worth spending our entire lives to pursue. Don’t be content with mediocrity, with “simply going with the flow”, with being comfortable and laid back. Don’t believe those who would distract you from the real treasure, which you are, by telling you that life is beautiful only if you have many possessions.
“Be sceptical about people who want to make you believe that you are only important if you act tough like the heroes in films or if you wear the latest fashions. Your happiness has no price. It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.”
Finally, he noted that love is a gift, “a noble responsibility which is life-long, [. . .] a daily task for those who can achieve great dreams!”
Putting aside his written text, the Holy Father warned young people about not following their dreams. “Woe to youth who dare not dream,” he said. "If you do not dream at your age, you are already ready for retirement. [. . .] When love seems a burden, when it is hard to say no to what is wrong, look to the cross of Jesus, embrace it and do not let go of his hand, which takes you up and lifts you up when you fall."
In a reference go Jesus’ command to the sick, “Rise!” he said, “God created us to stand. There is an Alpini* song that says that the problem in one’s journey is not failing, but getting up. Jesus told us, ‘Rise!’ God wants us standing up!"
The pope ended with a sport analogy. “I know that you are capable of acts of great friendship and goodness,” he said. “With these you are called to build the future, together with others and for others, but never against anyone! You will do amazing things if you prepare well, starting now, by living your youth and all its gifts to the fullest and without fear of hard work.
“Be like sporting champions, who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice. Let your daily programme be the works of mercy. Enthusiastically practice them, so as to be champions in life! In this way you will be recognized as disciples of Jesus. And your joy will be complete.
In his concluding greetings, Francis once more told teenagers that a Christian identity card means standing up, dreaming, and engaging in genuine love. This took on a concrete form when the pontiff received the offerings collected for the Ukraine, which Francis had announced at the start of the month.
Before the end of the Regina Caeli, Francis turned his thoughts to fate of Catholic and Orthodox bishops and priests kidnapped in Syria.
"I remain,” he said, “as ever concerned for the fate of our brother bishops, priests and religious, Catholic and Orthodox, who have been held for a long time in Syria.
“May the Merciful God touch the hearts of the kidnappers and grant our brothers speedy release and return to their communities. For this reason, I call upon you to pray [for them] without forgetting other people who have been abducted in the world ".
* The Alpini are elite mountain troops in the Italian Army.