The Church as a Home
by Pope Francis
I am filled with joy to receive you this morning. I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet for the greeting which he addressed to me on behalf of all and for presenting to me the guidelines of your work and the intentions inspiring it. This year, in the wake of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, you have wished to focus your reflection on the millions of young people across Latin America and the Caribbean who are living in a state of “educational emergency” and on whose behalf one must ask the fundamental question of the traditio of the faith.
The Church wants to imitate Jesus in her approach to young people. She desires to repeat to them that it is worth following the example he gave us, the example of dedication, of service, of selfless love, of fighting for justice and truth. Holy Mother Church is convinced that the best Teacher for young people is Jesus Christ. She wants to inculcate in all of them his own sentiments, thus showing them that it is beautiful to live as He lived, restricting selfishness and allowing oneself to be drawn by the beauty of goodness. One who knows Jesus deeply does not sit by on a couch and watch. He adheres to his lifestyle and becomes a missionary disciple of the Gospel, giving an enthusiastic witness of his faith, sparing no sacrifice.
I have always been struck by Jesus’ encounter with the young rich man (cf. Lk 18:18-23). I believe it is a good model which effectively illustrates the Lord’s pedagogy. I will consider three aspects of this narrative: how Christ receives, listens to and invites this young man to follow him.
Acceptance: this is Jesus’ first action and ours. It comes before any teaching or apostolic mission. Christ stopped with that young man, he looked at him with affection, with great love: this is the embrace of unconditional charity. The Lord puts himself in the place of everyone, even those who reject him. He does not repay them with the same coin. One must stand beside young people in every environ of their lives: at school, in the family, at work..., paying attention to their needs and aspirations, not only the material ones. Many of them are going through serious problems. How can we not think of academic failures, unemployment, loneliness, the bitterness of a broken family. There are difficult moments, which make young people feel frustrated and abandoned; they make them vulnerable to drugs, to loveless sex, to violence.... We are asked not to abandon them, not to leave them on the side of the road; they have an immense need to feel valued for their dignity, surrounded by affection and understood.
Then Jesus had a frank and heartfelt dialogue with that young man. He listened to his concerns and he enlightened him with the light of Sacred Scripture. Jesus, at the outset, does not condemn, he has no prejudice, he doesn’t cast him into perennial categories; in the same way young people should feel at home in the Church. She must not only open her doors to them; she must also go out and seek them, attuning herself to their protests and giving them space so that they feel heard. She is a mother and she cannot remain indifferent; she must understand their concerns and carry them to the heart of God.
Lastly, Jesus invites this young man to follow him: sell everything... and come follow me (cf. Lk 18:22). These words have not lost their relevance. Young people need to hear them from us. They need to hear that Christ is not a fictional character, but a living person who wants to share their inalienable desire for life, commitment and dedication. If we content ourselves with giving young people merely human consolation, we disappoint them. It is important to offer them the best we have: Jesus Christ, his Gospel, and with it a new horizon, which helps them face their life with coherence, honesty and high aims. They see the evils of the world and they don’t stay quiet about it, they place their finger right on the wound, ask for a better world and accept no substitutes. They want to be the protagonists of their own present and the builders of a future where there is no room for lies, corruption, a lack of solidarity.... The Church in Latin America cannot squander the treasure of her youth, with all its potential for the growth of society, with its great longing to forge one immense family of brothers reconciled in love. On this journey, Jesus goes out to meet our youth, he calls them to his side and gives them his strength, his
Word, where they can find the inspiration to face the struggles besieging them. They need to be friends with Christ, to become “itinerants of the faith”, and bring it to every street, to every square and to every corner of the earth (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 106). And they need to feel the warmth of Holy Mother Church, both by her receiving them and by her accompanying them – and the warmth of their other Mother, Jesus’ and our own. When we walk holding on to her hand, fear passes and we learn how to smile in a new way.
Dear brothers, young people are waiting for us. Let us not disappoint them. I invite you to accept this challenge decisively, so that the Christian communities of Latin American and the Caribbean may know how to be companions, teachers and mothers for each and every one of her young people. Forming the young, evangelizing them and making of them missionary disciples is an arduous task, one that requires patience, but it is very urgent and necessary. I confess to you that it is worth it. Greet the young people in my name and tell them that I ask them to please pray for me. May Jesus always be with you and may he bless you.
© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2014
This item 10478 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org