Pope Francis’ Message for WYD 2018 was published today in several languages and summaries are offered at vaticannews.va
For the full text, however, of this very beautiful Message to young people – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30) – you must go to Press Office and click on Daily Bulletin and this brings you to http://www.vatican.va where you can scroll down to your preferred language:
POPE’S MESSAGE FOR WYD: DO NOT BE AFRAID!
Pope Francis’ message for the 33rd World Youth Day, which will be celebrated at diocesan level on Palm Sunday, March 25th, focuses on helping young people to overcome their fears and discern their true vocation (photos vaticannews) – By Philippa Hitchen
In the message, published by the Vatican on Thursday, the Pope notes that the forthcoming celebration marks another step in preparation for the international World Youth Day due to take place in Panama in January 2019. It also precedes the Synod of Bishops on the theme of youth scheduled for October this year, highlighting the importance of young people in the life of the whole Church.
Name your fears
Reflecting on the words of the Angel Gabriel, “Do not be afraid!”, spoken to Mary in St Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis asks young people to name their own fears. Today, he says, there are many youngsters who continuously photo-shop their images or hide behind false identities, in an attempt to adapt to artificial and unattainable standards. The uncertainty of the jobs market, a sense of inadequacy and a lack of emotional security are other fears that afflict young people, he says.
In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, the Pope continues, discernment is vital so that we don’t waste energy being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts. The Bible doesn’t ignore the human experience of fear, he says, noting how Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Peter, the apostles and even Jesus himself experienced fear and anguish. The phrase “Do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times in the Bible, the Pope says, “as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year”.
Don’t hide behind screens
Pope Francis says discernment should not just be an individual effort at introspection, but also means opening ourselves up to God and to others who can guide us through their own experience. Authentic Christians, he insists, are not afraid to open themselves to others and he urges young people not to close themselves up in a dark room “in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smart phone”.
Do you accept the challenge?
Just as the Angel calls Mary by name, the Pope continues, so each one of us is called personally by God. Through God’s grace, we can take courage, despite all the doubts, difficulties and temptations that crop up along our way. If we allow ourselves to be touched by Mary’s example, he says, we too can learn to love God and to dedicate ourselves to the weakest and poorest among us. “Dear young people,” the Pope concludes, “as WYD in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves with joy and enthusiasm. WYD is for the courageous! Do you accept the challenge?”
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: LEARNING TO DRINK FROM OUR OWN THIRST
Jesus’ own struggle with human weakness and temptation was Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça’s focus in the Wednesday afternoon meditation of spiritual exercises to the Pope and the Roman Curia, in Ariccia.
By Debora Donnini
In the seventh meditation of the Curial spiritual exercises in Ariccia, Father José Tolentino Mendonça proposes that our poverty is the place where Jesus intervenes. The greatest obstacle to the spiritual life is not our fragility, but our rigidity and self-sufficiency. Thus we need to learn from our own thirst. And so, Fr. Tolentino turned his reflections on thirst toward the Passion of Jesus.
Thirst is a path
Fr. Tolentino tells us that spirituality needs to be lived as a communitarian adventure. Gustavo Guitiérrez highlights in his book: “Drinking from a well is the spiritual journey of a people.” The well from which one drinks is a concrete spiritual life. That humanity which we struggle to embrace, our own, and the humanity of others, is the very humanity that Jesus embraces. For he lovingly bows down toward our reality, not toward an ideal that we construct. The mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God means adopting a non-ideological vision of life.
Letting go of the obsession for a perfect life
In a certain sense, thirst humanizes us and is the way that we become spiritually mature” Fr. Tolentino reminds us that it takes a long time to let go of the obsession for perfection in order to conquer the vice of projecting false images onto reality. Thomas Merton wrote that Christ wanted to identify himself with what we do not love about ourselves. This is why he took on himself our misery and our suffering. St Paul also testifies to the theory that faith is paradoxical: “when I am weak, it is then that I am strong.
The three temptations in the desert
The first temptation is for bread. Jesus knows our material needs, but reminds us that it is not by bread alone that we live. His response does not deny reality, but helps us consider that we are a “desert” which needs to be inhabited by the Spirit. To understand the second temptation, Fr. Tolentino used the example of the Israelites in the desert who require Moses to give them something to drink. We like them think that believing means having our thirst satisfied. But Jesus “teaches us to hand over our thirst in silence and abandonment as a prayer.” Jesus responds to the last temptation regarding idols: “The Lord your God you shall adore.” The saying of the Risen Lord in the Gospel of Matthew is helpful: “All power has been given in heaven and on earth.”
Jesus manifests his power in the extreme offering of Himself
The devil wants to be adored, but his power is only apparent, while Christ’s is associated with the mystery of the Christ—the extreme offering of himself. It is an enormous risk when the temptation of power distances us from the mystery of the cross, and thus we distance ourselves from service to our brothers and sisters notes Fr. Tolentino. Jesus teaches us how not to allow ourselves to become slaves to anyone nor to make anyone else a slave, but to worship God alone and to serve others as pastors.
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE PRODIGAL SON
The story of the prodigal son is not a parable but a mirror. This was the theme of Fr. José Tolentino Mendoça’s meditation for the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia on Thursday morning.
By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
We have all heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son many times. We know the story well – a man has two sons and the younger asks his father for his part of the inheritance. The parable of the prodigal son is our story.
This parable is about each one of us, Fr. Tolentino says. “Within us are feelings that are suffocated, things that need to be clarified, pathologies, countless threads that need to be connected.” In other words, there are many aspects of our lives that need reconciliation. The gift that Jesus wants to give us is his word. In that word, conflicts and fear are transformed. “Only mercy, that excessive love that God teaches us, is able to redeem us.”
Mercy is not deserved
The behavior of the older son helps us understand God’s mercy even more. Mercy has nothing to do with giving to someone what they deserve. Rather, Fr. Tolentino explains, “Mercy is offering to another precisely what they do not deserve.” It is difficult to define mercy precisely because “mercy does not encase itself in one definition.” Mercy can be understood only if we allow it to “incarnate itself”” within us “so that we might touch it.”
Mercy is excessive love
Concluding his reflections, Fr. Tolentino expresses the fact that mercy is always excessive. The moderate person, the person who wants to play it safe, will never understand the Gospel of Mercy. This is because, “The Gospel of Mercy requires that our love be excessive” like the Father’s in the parable who understands everything without saying much. The Father shows us that mercy is gratuitous, it is the art of healing and rebuilding, the experience of forgiveness, the completely unexpected expression of tenderness. In the end, it is an excessive gift.