YOUR LIFE IS THE GREATEST GIFT FROM GOD
Life is a precious gift and it comes to us with its challenges.
Do you know that the welfare of the world around you can be better because of you?
Do you like to walk on the footsteps of people who made the world a better one?
Do you realise that your life would become very interesting and fulfilling?
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR THE THIRTY-THIRD WORLD YOUTH DAY 2018
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30)
Dear young people,
World Youth Day 2018 represents another step in preparation for the international WYD due to take place in Panama in January 2019. This new stage of our pilgrimage falls in the same year that the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet on the theme: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. This is a happy coincidence. The focus, prayer and reflection of the Church will turn to you young people, with the desire to receive and, above all, to embrace the precious gift that you are to God, to the Church and to the world.
As you already know, we have chosen to be accompanied on this journey by the example and intercession of Mary, the young woman of Nazareth whom God chose as the Mother of his Son. She walks with us towards the Synod and towards the WYD in Panama. This year we seek, together with her, to listen to the voice of God who inspires courage and bestows the grace needed to respond to his call: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30). These are the words addressed by God’s messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, to Mary, an ordinary girl from a small village in Galilee.
1. Do not be afraid
As is understandable, the sudden appearance of the angel and his mysterious greeting: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28), strongly disturbed Mary, who was surprised by this first revelation of her identity and her vocation, as yet unknown to her... He knows well the challenges we must confront in life, especially when we are faced with the fundamental choices on which depend who we will be and what we will do in this world. It is the “shudder” that we feel when faced with decisions about our future, our state of life, our vocation. In these moments we are troubled and seized by so many fears.
And you young people, what are your fears? What worries you most deeply? An “underlying” fear that many of you have is that of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who you are. Today, there are many young people who feel the need to be different from who they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard. They continuously “photo-shop” their images, hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves. Many are obsessed by receiving as many “likes” as possible. Multiple fears and uncertainties emerge from this sense of inadequacy. Indeed, those who have accepted the gift of faith and seek their vocation seriously are not exempt from fears. Some think: perhaps God is asking or will ask too much of me; perhaps, by following the road he has marked out for me, I will not be truly happy, or I will not be able to do what he asks of me. Others think: if I follow the path that God shows me, who can guarantee that I will be able to follow it through? Will I become discouraged? Will I lose my enthusiasm? Will I be able to persevere for the whole of my life?
In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary. It allows us to bring order to the confusion of our thoughts and feelings, to act in a just and prudent way. In this process, the first step in overcoming fears is to identify them clearly, so as not to find yourself wasting time and energy by being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts. And so, I invite all of you to look within yourselves and to “name” your fears. Ask yourselves: what upsets me, what do I fear most in this specific moment of my life today? What blocks me and prevents me from moving forward? Why do I lack the courage to make the important choices I need to make? Do not be afraid to face your fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are and to come to terms with them. The Bible does not ignore the human experience of fear nor its many causes. Abraham was afraid (cf. Gen 12:10ff), Jacob was afraid (cf. Gen 31:31; 32:7), and so were Moses (cf. Ex 2:14; 17:4), Peter (cf. Mt 26:69ff) and the Apostles (cf. Mk 4:38-40; Mt 26:56). Jesus himself, albeit in an incomparable way, experienced fear and anguish (cf. Mt 26:37; Lk 22:44).
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mk 4:40). In admonishing his disciples Jesus helps us to understand how the obstacle to faith is often not scepticism but fear. Thus understood, the work of discernment identifies our fears and can then help us to overcome them, opening us to life and helping us to calmly face the challenges that come our way. For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God… and in life!
Discernment is indispensable when searching for one’s vocation in life... Vocation, however, is a call from above, and discernment in this context principally means opening ourselves to the Other who calls. Prayerful silence is therefore required in order to hear the voice of God that resounds within our conscience. God knocks at the door of our hearts, as he did with Mary; he longs to establish friendship with us through prayer, to speak with us through the Sacred Scriptures, to offer us mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to be one with us in the Eucharist.
It is also important to dialogue with and encounter others, our brothers and sisters in the faith who have more experience, for they help us to see better and to choose wisely from the various possibilities. I know that there are very good priests, consecrated men and woman and lay faithful, many of whom are also young, who can support you like older brothers and sisters in the faith. Enlivened by the Holy Spirit, they will help you to make sense of your doubts and understand the plan of your own vocation. The other is not only a spiritual guide, but also the person who helps us open ourselves to the infinite riches of the life that God has given us.
“I have called you by name” (Is 43:1). The first reason not to fear is the fact that God has called us by name. The angel, God’s messenger, called Mary by name. When God calls someone by name, he also reveals to the person his vocation, his plan of holiness and fulfilment, through which the person becomes a gift to others and is made unique. The continuous presence of divine grace encourages us to embrace our vocation with confidence; our vocation demands a commitment of faithfulness that needs to be renewed each day.
Dear young people, the Lord, the Church, the world are waiting for your answer to the unique call that each one receives in this life! As World Youth Day in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves for our gathering with the joy and enthusiasm of those who wish to participate in such a great adventure. WYD is for the courageous! Not for young people who are searching only for comfort and who withdraw whenever difficulties arise. Do you accept the challenge?
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