Christ Speaks to the Youth of the World
Gathered in Krakow with a million and a half youth from all over the world Pope Francis told them that they were like the disciples at Pentecost. The disciples were fearful and as a result were paralyzed.
The pope spoke to them of another type of paralysis:
“This is itself a great form of paralysis, whenever we start thinking that happiness is the same as comfort and convenience, that being happy means going through life asleep or on tranquillizers, that the only way to be happy is to live in a haze.”
The pope urged them to flee from selfishness that encloses the person in himself or herself:
“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal “more”. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.”
Youth face many fears such as those brought on by war. The greatest fear however is that of selfishness, what Cardinal Newman called “a religion of the world.” In plain words the pope told the youth:
“But in life there is another, even more dangerous, kind of paralysis. It is not easy to put our finger on it. I like to describe it as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa. In other words, to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa. A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe. A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep.”
We are reminded of the saints’ teachings of Jesus’ invitation to self-denial. Blessed Newman wrote that we learn from his first disciples:
“That a rigorous self-denial is a chief duty, nay, that it may be considered the test whether we are Christ’s disciples, whether we are living in a mere dream, which we mistake for Christian faith and obedience, or are really and truly awake, alive, living in the day, on our road heavenwards. The early Christians went through self-denials in their very profession of the Gospel; what are our self-denials, now that the profession of the Gospel is not a self-denial?”
Pope Francis exhorted the young people to follow Christ by serving others, by giving of their lives for others in a world that is at war, in a world were there is greed and division. He urged them to build human bridges, not walls.
He also urged them to leave a mark on their world, a mark on history. St. Josemaría Escrivá said something similar in The Way:
“Don’t let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love.
With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart.”
The WYD vigil culminated with the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the singing in different languages of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. To leave behind our fears, to overcome our selfishness and comfort seeking, to find peace, we must turn to Jesus in prayer and the sacraments, in fellowship with others and works of mercy. In the Holy Eucharist we will hear Jesus speak to us, urging us to follow him, and so find true happiness and freedom.
Seeing the great crowds of young people the thought easily goes to St. John Paul II who began these World Youth Days, and to his words at one such meeting:
“Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their hearts. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life.”
In closing this brief consideration of the vigil at World Youth Day, we should ask ourselves like Newman:
“In what sense do we fulfill the words of Christ? have we any distinct notion what is meant by the words “taking up our cross?” in what way are we acting, in which we should not act, supposing the Bible and the Church were unknown to this country, and religion, as existing among us, was merely a fashion of this world? What are we doing, which we have reason to trust is done for Christ’s sake who bought us?”
Youth are the hope of the world and the Church. And Christ expects them and each one of us to respond to his invitation to take up the cross and follow him.