Sunday morning in Rio, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass that closed the events of the World Youth Day 2013. There were 3 million people present for the Mass on Copacabana Beach. Most of these were young people aged under 35. There is no official translation yet available, That will come in a few hours. But here is a general summary of the key points made by the pope in his homily.
Jesus calls you to be a disciple on a mission! Today, in light of the Word of God we have heard, what does the Lord say? What does the Lord say? Three words: Go, without fear,to serve.
These days, here in Rio, you had a beautiful experience, an encounter with Jesus and an opportunity to be together. You have experienced the joy of faith. But the experience of this meeting cannot stay locked up in your life or in a small group of the parish. It would be like taking the oxygen from a flame that burns.
Be careful, though! Jesus did not say, if you want, if you have time, go, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, witness to the faith we proclaim the Gospel is the mandate that the Lord has entrusted to the whole Church. It is a command which is not born of the desire to dominate, but by the power of love, the fact that Jesus first came among us and gave us all of Himself. He gave His life to save us and show us the love and the mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free people, as friends, as brothers and sisters, and not only sends us, but with us, it is always beside us in this mission of love.
Where does Jesus send us? There are no boundaries, no limits: Jesus sends us everywhere. The Gospel is for all and not for some. It is not just for those that seem closer, more receptive, more welcoming, but for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and bring Christ to every situation, to the suburbs (this is essential), even to those who seem more distant, more indifferent. The Lord wants everyone to feel the warmth of His mercy and His love.
Some might think: “I have no special preparation, how can I go and preach the Gospel?”. Dear friend, your fear is not very different from that of Jeremiah. We have just heard in the reading, when he was called by God to be a prophet. “Ah, Lord God! I cannot speak, because I am young. ” God says to you what he said to Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid […], for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1,7.8). God is with us!
“Do not be afraid.” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is God himself who goes before us and guide us. In sending his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is true for us too! Jesus never leaves anyone alone! Jesus is always with us.
Then Jesus did not simply say, “Go” but “Go” together. Dear young people, you feel the company of the whole Church and the communion of saints in this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources that we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation. He called them to form a group, a community.
I want to speak to you, dear priests who concelebrated this Eucharist with me: you came to accompany your young people, to share their experience of faith! Certainly we have all been rejuvinated. But this is only one step of the way. Please continue to accompany them with generosity and joy. Help them to engage actively in the Church; never feel alone! Here I would like to thank the groups of youth movements and new communities that accompany young people in their experience of being Church, so creative and so daring. Go ahead and do not be afraid!
The last word: to serve. At the beginning of the Psalm we have proclaimed these words: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95.1). What is this new song? There are no words, there is a melody, but it is the song of your life. It means to let our lives be identified with that of Jesus. To have his feelings, his thoughts, and his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.
In the reading we have just heard, St Paul said: “I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many” (1 Cor 9:19). To proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself a “servant of all.” To evangelize is to witness firsthand the love of God, It means to overcome our selfishness, is to serve chinandoci to wash the feet of our brothers as Jesus did.
Dear young people, in returning to your homes do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first reading when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, God gives him the power to “uproot and tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer 1:10). This is also true for you as you return home. Bringing the Gospel is to bring the power of God to uproot and destroy the evil and violence to destroy and break down the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, to build a new world.
Dear young people, Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church depends on you! The Pope is counting on you! Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Amen.
Most people think of the Ascension of Jesus as being a ‘departure’ moment. Jesus was here and now he is gone. We imagine Jesus going up into the clouds and the disciples waving farewell from below. This is an unhelpful image. It is essential that we understand what does happen and what does not happen in the Ascension event. It would be easy to wrongly think that in his ministry showed us how to build the city of God on earth, and now he has gone and the mission is left to us.
A few years ago I was on Rēkohu Chatham Islands for what has become one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most sacred days, the ANZAC day of remembrance in gratitude for those who gave their lives, their health, their youth, their service that we may live in peace. The art above was produced by one of the students at the local Te One school.
Today’s reflection marks the end of the FFF Lent-to-Easter daily email posts. Thank you for your company on this journey. While these daily posts (for those who have signed up for the Lent / Advent reflections at this link) will take a break until Advent, those who have signed up to receive every post or regular posts at this link. You might take a moment now to visit this page now to check your email preferences.
During retreat this week I found myself pondering just how difficult it is to accept that God, in Jesus, is really with me today.
As I write I’m nearing the end of retreat days with a group of fifty priests from across the USA. As I mentioned a couple of days ago the diversity and youth of the group is remarkable with the majority being aged under 40 and a good number ordained for fewer than five years.