Speaking to some 600,000 young people, Francis stressed the importance of Mary's ‘yes’. “Saying ‘yes’ to the Lord means preparing to embrace life as it comes, with all its fragility, its simplicity, and often enough too, with its conflicts and annoyances”. For too many, “It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future. Without education, it is difficult to dream of a future”.
Panama (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke to 600,000 young people at Panama City’s Metro Park for the Vigil of prayer of the 34th World Youth Day, at the Campo San Juan Pablo II, not far from the ocean.
The site was full of flags from around the world when Pope Francis arrived just before 6.30 pm (10.30 pm GMT), along with five young people, standing in for five continents. A large picture of a young man, Jesus with open arms, stood in the back of the platform. Next to the Pope lay the mitre and a relic of the bloody shirt of Mgr Oscar Romero.
In his address, the pontiff said “The salvation the Lord offers us is an invitation to be part of a love story”. And “That was how he surprised Mary, and asked her to be part of this love story. Obviously, the young woman of Nazareth was not part of the ‘social networks” of the time. She was not an ‘influencer”, but without wanting or trying to, she became the most influential woman in history. [. . .] Mary, the ‘influencer’ of God. With just a few words, she was able to say ‘yes’ and to trust in the love and promises of God, the only force capable of making all things new.”
“We are always struck by the strength of that young woman’s ‘yes’, the words ‘be it done’ that she spoke to the angel. This was no merely passive or resigned acceptance or a faint ‘yes’, as if to say, ‘Well, let’s give it a try, and see what happens’. It was something else, something different. It was the ‘yes’ of someone prepared to be committed and take a risk, ready to stake everything she had, with no more security than the certainty of knowing that she was the bearer of a promise. Hers would undoubtedly be a difficult mission, but the challenges that lay ahead were no reason to say ‘no’.”
“This afternoon we also heard how Mary’s ‘yes’ echoes and expands in every generation. Many young people, like Mary, take a risk and stake their future on a promise.’
“Saying ‘yes’ to the Lord means preparing to embrace life as it comes, with all its fragility, its simplicity, and often enough too, with its conflicts and annoyances, and to do so with the same love with which Erika and Rogelio spoke. It means embracing our country, our families and our friends as they are, with all their weak points and their flaws.”
“Why did he do this? Because only what is loved can be saved. Only what is embraced can be transformed. The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. Yet it is precisely through our problems, frailties and flaws that he wants to write this love story. He embraced the prodigal son, he embraced Peter after his denials and he always embraces us whenever we fall: he helps us to get up and get back on our feet. Because the worst fall, the fall that can ruin our lives, is to remain down and not allow ourselves to be helped up.”
Taking his cue from of the testimonies, that of Alfredo, who was left “without work, without education, without community, without family’, the pope said “It is impossible for us to grow unless we have strong roots to support us and to keep us firmly grounded. It is easy to drift off, when nothing holds us down. There is a question that we older people have to ask ourselves, but also a question that you need to ask us and we have to answer: What roots are we providing for you, what foundations for you to grow as persons? It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future.”
“Without education, it is difficult to dream of a future; without work, it is very difficult to dream of a future; without a family and community, it is almost impossible to dream of a future. Because dreaming of a future means learning how to answer not only the question what I am living for, but also who I am living for, who makes it worthwhile for me to live my life.”
“I remember once talking with some young people, and one of them asked me: ‘Father, why are so many young people today not interested in whether God exists or find it difficult to believe in him, and they seem so bored and aimless in life? I asked them in return what they thought. I remember one particular answer that touched me and it relates to the experience Alfredo shared – ‘it’s because many of them feel that, little by little, they stopped existing for others; often they feel invisible’. This is the culture of abandonment and lack of concern for others. Not everyone, but many people feel that they have little or nothing to contribute, because there is no one around to ask them to get involved. How can they think that God exists, if others have long since stopped thinking that they exist?”
“We know well that to feel acknowledged or loved it is not enough to be connected all day long. To feel respected and asked to get involved is greater than simply being ‘on-line’. It means finding spaces where, with your hands, your heart and your head, you can feel part of a larger community that needs you and that you yourselves need.”
“It is always possible to “sprout shoots and grow’ when there is a community, a warm home that enables us to take root, that provides the confidence we need and prepares our hearts to discover a new horizon: the horizon of a beloved son or daughter who is sought, found and entrusted with a mission. Through real faces, the Lord makes himself present. To say “yes’ to this love story is to say ‘yes’ to becoming a means of building in our neighbourhoods those ecclesial communities capable of walking the streets of our cities, embracing and weaving new relationships. To be an ‘influencer’ in the twenty-first century is to be guardians of roots, guardians of all that prevents our life from dissipating and evaporating into nothingness. Be guardians of everything that can make us feel part of one another, to feel that we belong.”
Finally, “The Gospel teaches us that the world will not be better because there are fewer sick, weak, frail or elderly people to be concerned about, or because there are fewer sinners. Rather it will be better when more people, like these friends, are willing and enthused enough to give birth to the future and believe in the transforming power of God’s love. Are you willing to be an “influencer’ like Mary, who dared to say, ‘Let it be done’? Only love makes us more human and fulfilled; everything else is a pleasant but useless placebo.”