Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB
When the ‘people of the world’ try to allure the youth with technology and idols of pleasure, the Church calls the youth to be holy – live a life of renunciation, commitment and love of God and neighbour. This is a challenge! Young people love challenges and are willing to take this call to holiness to heart. The just concluded World Youth Day in Panama repeatedly called the youth to a life of holiness. At the youth celebration, holiness was presented to them as the solution to all evils of this present time. The Holy Father and the Prelates were not tired of repeating their call to holiness. They made this call, as an urgent appeal. Their expectation is filled with optimism and hope. “The Church is looking forward to this springtime of young people. We have confidence in you, we expect a lot from you, because we are fully convinced that…the changes and transformations that humanity and the Church require are in your hands,” said Archbishop José
Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama, who hosted thousands of youth from all corners of the world gathered around Pope Francis in the last week of January.
“Being holy leads us to break out of spiritual and material corruption, which causes us evil and offends God… A saint defends the defenseless – the unborn, but also the born child who is destitute, a saint defends migrants, seeks justice, prays, lives in and loves the community, is joyful and has a sense of humor, is always striving, breaks out of mediocrity, lives the mercy of God and shares it with his neighbor,” the Archbishop continued to assert. He also encouraged the youth to swim against the tide of the culture that is pleasure seeking rather than accepting challenges of daily life.
Archbishop Ulloa reminded those present that sainthood is “not a myth,” but a reality for their lives. He pointed to the witness of saints including Martin de Porres, Rose of Lima, Juan Diego, José Sánchez del Río, John Bosco, Oscar Romero and John Paul.
In his final remarks to the youth, Pope Francis repeated the words of St. John Bosco, the patron of youth. “Let’s not be afraid, dear young people, have courage to be saints; and it is easy to be saints.” By being saints, we are not renouncing your youthful enjoyment or being happy. It is possible to be happy with little things, because our joy comes from Jesus Christ. He is the reason for our happiness. He owns for us life with his resurrection.
The Holy Father used the opportunity of meeting young people of the world to challenge them and call them to a meaningful and full life by tackling few important issues that harm young people today. The pressing issues seem to be: young people’s use and abuse of information technology, lack of children (especially in the western world).
In many occasions in the past, Pope Francis expressed his worry of young people engrossed in media and technology. He always pointed out that they are far from the real world, but getting lost in the virtual world; they are separated from the real human contact but deeply absorbed into distant and make-believe world of social media. On the other hand, the Holy Father insists that real human contact and joy of encounter with people can be experienced by only performing works of mercy that Jesus calls for in his gospels. He thoughtfully noted, “It worries me that they communicate and live in the virtual world…. instead of extending
their hands when they saw me, they “greeted” with their phones held up, taking photos and selfies…” Holiness consists of being people of the present world and being in touch with reality and learning to look at the world with the eyes of faith and gospels.
After returning to Rome, Pope Francis in his General Audience recalled the good time he had in Panama with young people. He used the example of Panama to bring to the minds of European youth the need to have children, which is also a Christian and human commitment. He recalled the moment when he blessed the children in Panama. He said, “Something that struck me very much: the people lifted the children saying: “Here is my pride, here is my future!” And they made us see the children, but there were so many! And the fathers and mothers were proud of the children. I thought of how much dignity there is in this gesture, and how eloquent it was for the demographic winter that we are living in Europe! The children are the pride of the family. The children are the security for the future. The demographic winter, without children, is hard! Indeed, having children and bringing them up is a Christian and human commitment to oneself, to the family, to the church and to the world.
Often, events such as World Youth Day bring together people of all races and nationality powerfully expressing the universality of the Church. The Pope who himself coming from an immigrant family was moved to see young people of the nations united in the name of Christ and His Church. He used the occasion to speak against all that divides the world today. He said, “To see all the flags parade together, dancing in the hands of young people, joyful to meet one another is a prophetic sign, a counter-current sign in relation to today’s sad tendency to conflictive nationalisms, which raise walls and are closed to universality, to the encounter between peoples. It’s a sign that Christian young people are leaven of peace in the world.” Surely, young people with open minds and with their joyful youthfulness can be the best agents of peace in the world.
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