Last year, in July, addressing a crowd of over 3 million young people gathered on Copacabana beachfront for the concluding Mass of the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Pope Francis said: “What do I expect as a consequence of the Youth Day? I expect a mess. There will be one. There will be a mess here in Rio? There will be! But I want a mess in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out on to the street … The parishes, the schools, the institutions exist to go out into”.
Looking at the young people, the Pope continued: “I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you!” The youth are the future of the church and the future of our mission. They are not afraid to be committed. They are ready to challenge the old structures of the world and of the church.
In the last years we have seen the incredible courage of the young people around the world. If we think of the Arab Spring where young activists were at the vanguard of the democratic protests and paid a high price for their commitment. In Tahrir Square in Cairo (Egypt) there was a signpost with a message: “Tomorrow is yours, if you fight for it”.
The Pakistani Malala Yousafzai is a striking model of the capacity of the youth to give a good example where adults fail. Her speech at the United Nations ignited the hope and activism of the youth around the world. Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban because she was such a powerful, determined advocate for the universal rights to education. She shows how influential young people can be if only we listen to them and allow them to play their role and to take the lead at times.
A young Syrian, Salim, said: “We have a very long, painful road ahead but I know that the involvement of young people can help change a country’s course. The young people here in Damascus that I know have more than just hope, they have the way”.
At the end of the celebration in Copacabana, Pope Francis said: “Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.
Three phrases: ‘Go’, ‘do not be afraid’, and ‘serve’. Follow these three exhortations: ‘Go’, ‘do not be afraid’, and ‘serve’. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives joy. Dear young friends, as you return 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, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant”, (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”.
(Robert M. Alena)