"Young man, I say to you, arise!" (Lk 7:14)


Dear Young People,

PapaIncontroConGiovaniIn October 2018, with the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, the Church undertook a process of reflection on your place in today’s world, your search for meaning and purpose in life, and your relationship with God.

In January 2019, I met with hundreds of thousands of your contemporaries from throughout the world assembled in Panama for World Youth Day. Events of this type – the Synod and World Youth Day – are an expression of a fundamental dimension of the Church: the fact that we “journey together”.

I have chosen the city of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, as the goal of our next intercontinental pilgrimage, to take place in 2022...The theme of the Lisbon World Youth Day will be: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39).

In these two intervening years, I want to reflect with you on two other biblical texts: for 2020, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Lk 7:14) and for 2021, “Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen” (cf. Acts 26:16).

As you can see, the verb “arise” or “stand up” appears in all three themes. These words also speak of resurrection, of awakening to new life. They are words that constantly appear in the Exhortation Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive!) that I SinodoDeiGiovaniaddressed to you following the 2018 Synod and that, together with the Final Document, the Church offers you as a lamp to shed light on your path in life. I sincerely hope that the journey bringing us to Lisbon will coincide with a great effort on the part of the entire Church to implement these two documents and to let them guide the mission of those engaged in the pastoral care of young people.

Let us now turn to this year’s theme: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (cf. Lk 7:14). I mentioned this verse of the Gospel in Christus Vivit: “If you have lost your vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection he urges you: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’” (No. 20).

That passage from the Bible tells us how Jesus, upon entering the town of Nain in Galilee, came upon the funeral procession of a young person, the only son of a widowed mother. Jesus, struck by the woman’s heartrending grief, miraculously restored her son to life. The miracle took place after a sequence of words and gestures: “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’. Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still” (Lk 7:13-14). Let us take a moment to meditate on these words and gestures of the Lord.

The ability to see pain and death
PapaIncontroSinodaleJesus looks carefully at this funeral procession.... His ability to see generates encounter, the source of new life. Few words are needed.

What about my own ability to see? ... often do we end up being eyewitnesses of events without ever experiencing them in real time! Sometimes our first reaction is to take a picture with our cell phone, without even bothering to look into the eyes of the persons involved.

All around us, but at times also within us, we can see realities of death: physical, spiritual, emotional, social. Do we really notice them, or simply let them happen to us? Is there anything we can do in order to restore life?

One young woman told me: “Among my friends I see less desire to get involved, less courage to get up”. Sadly, depression is spreading among young people too, and in some cases even leads to the temptation to take one’s own life. How many situations are there where apathy reigns, where people plunge into an abyss of anguish and remorse! How many young people cry out with no one to hear their plea! Instead, they meet with looks of distraction and indifference on the part of people who want to enjoy their own “happy hour”, without being bothered about anyone or anything else.

Others waste their lives with superficial things, thinking they are alive while in fact they are dead within (cf. Rev 3:1). At the age of twenty, they can already be dragging their lives down, instead of raising them up to the level of their true dignity. Everything is reduced to “living it up” and seeking a morsel of gratification: a minute of entertainment, a fleeting moment of attention PopeAndGiovaniDelSinodoand affection from others… And what about the widespread growing digital narcissism that affects young people and adults alike. ... In the long run, this will inevitably lead to unhappiness, apathy and boredom with life, a growing sense of emptiness and frustration.

There are many other situations of physical or moral death that a young person may encounter. I think of addiction, crime, poverty or grave illness. I leave it to you to think about these things and to realize what has proved “deadly” for yourselves or for someone close to you, now or in the past. At the same time, I ask you to remember that the young man in the Gospel was truly dead, but he was able to come back to life because he was seen by Someone who wanted him to live. The same thing can also happen to us, today and every day.

To be continued

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