APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS TO GREECE
Meeting with Young People
Saint Dionysius School of the Ursuline Sisters in Maroussi, Athens Monday, 6 December 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for coming here today, many of you from faraway places. I am happy to be with you as my visit to Greece draws to a close. I take this occasion to renew my gratitude for the welcome I have received and all the work done to organize this visit.
I was impressed by your very fine testimonies. I had already read them, and now I would like to reflect with you on some of the points you raised.
The Journey of Faith
foto Stodulky, Free
Katerina, you told us about your recurring doubts of faith. I want to say to you and to everyone here: don’t be afraid of doubts, because they are not a sign of the lack of faith. Don’t be afraid of doubts. On the contrary, doubts are “vitamins of faith”: they help strengthen faith and make it more robust. They enable faith to grow, to become more conscious, free and mature. They make it more eager to set out, to persevere with humility, day after day.
Faith is precisely that: a daily journey with Jesus who takes us by the hand, accompanies us, encourages us, and, when we fall, lifts us up. He is never afraid to do this. Faith is like a love story, where we press forward together,
day after day. Like a love story too, there are times when we have to think, to face questions, to look into our hearts. And that is good, because it raises the quality of the relationship! This is very important for you, because you cannot travel the path of faith blind, no; instead, dialogue with God, with your conscience and with others.
Wonder, amazement, is the beginning not only of philosophy, but also of our faith. Frequently the Gospel tells us that when people encountered Jesus, they were amazed. In the encounter with God, amazement is always present, for it is the beginning of dialogue with God. And the reason is because faith is not primarily about a list of things to believe and rules to follow. In the deepest sense, faith is not an idea or a system of morality, but a reality, a beautiful truth that does not depend on us and that leaves us amazed: we are God’s beloved children! This is what faith is in its deepest sense: we are God’s beloved children! We are beloved children because we have a Father who watches over us and who never stops loving us. Think about this: whatever you may think or do, even the worst things possible, God continues to love you. I want you to understand this well: God never tires of loving.
He has wondrously made us
Dear young people, think about this: if nature is beautiful in our eyes, in God’s eye each of you is infinitely more beautiful! Scripture says: “He has wondrously made us” (cf. Ps 139:14). In God’s eyes we are a wonder. Allow yourself to be caught up in that wonder. Let yourself be loved by the One who always believes in you, by the One who loves you even more than you succeed in loving yourself. It is not easy to understand the breadth and depth of God’s love, it is not easy to grasp it, but it is like this: simply let yourself be gazed upon by the gaze of God.
May we never let laziness, fear or shame rob the treasure of forgiveness. May we always be amazed by God’s love! We will rediscover ourselves: not what other people say about us, or where the whims of the moment may lead us, or the hype we are in advertisements, but our deepest reality, the truth that God sees, the one he believes in: our unique beauty.
Remember those famous words engraved on the pediment of the Delphi temple? “Know thyself”. Nowadays, we risk forgetting who we are, becoming obsessed with appearances, bombarded with messages that make life depend on what we wear, the car we drive, how others see us... Yet those ancient words – know thyself – remain valid today. Realize that your worth is in who you are and not what you have. Your worth is not in the brand of the ress or shoes you wear, but because you are unique.
... It is important to cherish the wonder, the amazement, the beauty of faith! We are Christians not out of duty, but out of beauty. And precisely because we want to cherish that beauty, we have to say no to anything that would mar it. The joy of the Gospel, the wonder of Jesus, makes our sacrifices and struggles fade into the background. Don’t you agree? Remember this: being a Christian is not essentially about doing this or that, about doing things. We must do things, but Christianity is not essentially that. In the end, being a Christian is about letting God love you and recognizing that you are a unique individual in the face of the love of God.
The faces of other people
Let’s move on to another topic. The faces of other people. Ioanna, I liked how, in telling us about your life, you talked about other people. Above all, the two most important women in your life, your mother and grandmother, who “taught you to pray, to thank God every day”. In that way, you assimilated the faith naturally, genuinely. You made a very helpful suggestion: we need to turn to the Lord for everything, “to talk to him, to share our worries with him”.
That is how Jesus became your friend. How happy he is when we open our hearts to him! That is how we come to know God. Because to know God, it is not enough to have clear ideas about him – this is a small part, yet it is not enough – but to bring your life before him. Maybe that is the reason why so many people do not know God: because all they hear are sermons and speeches. Jesus, on the other hand, makes himself known through real faces and real people.
Ioanna, you mentioned a third person who was very important in your life: a religious sister who showed you the joy “of seeing life as service”. I want to stress this: seeing life as service. How true it is: serving others is the path to true joy! Helping others is not for losers, but for winners; it is the way to bring about something truly new in history. I am told that in Greek, the same word can mean “new” and “young”. Service is the newness of Jesus; service, dedication to others is the newness that makes life ever youthful. Do you want to do something new in life? Do you want to stay youthful? Then don’t settle for posting a few tweets. Don’t settle for virtual encounters; look for real ones, especially with people who need you. Don’t look for visibility, but for those who are invisible in our midst.
As I leave you, this is my wish for you: the courage to go forward, the courage to take a risk and not remain on the couch. The courage to take a risk, to go out towards other persons, never in isolation but always with others. And with this courage, each of you will discover yourselves, others and the meaning of life. My wish for you is that you will discover this, with the help of God who loves you all. God loves you, so take courage and keep moving forward! [In Greek]: Together, keep moving forward!
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