MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE AND CATECHISTS
Martyrs’ Stadium (Kinshasa)Wednesday, 2 February 2023 (Continuation)
Third Finger: honesty
We come to the third finger, which is higher than the others, as if to remind us of something essential. It is the key ingredient for a future worthy of our great expectations. And that is: honesty! To be a Christian is to witness to Christ. The first way to do this is by living virtuously, as Christ desires. This means not getting entangled in the snares of corruption. Christians cannot fail to be honest; otherwise, they betray their identity. Without honesty, we are not disciples and witnesses of Jesus; we are pagans, idolaters who worship our own ego rather than God, people who use others rather than serving them.
I wonder, though – how do we stop the spread of corruption, that seems never to stop expanding? Saint Paul helps us with a simple and brilliant phrase that you can say to yourselves over and over, until you know it by heart. Here it is: “Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).
Overcome evil with good
Do not be overcome by evil. Do not let yourselves be manipulated by individuals or groups that try to use you to keep your country in the grip of violence and instability, so that they can continue to control it without answering to anyone.
But overcome evil with good. Do not let your life be dragged along by the current of corruption. Be indignant, but never give in to the persuasive but poisonous temptations of corruption.
I think of the witness given by a young person like yourselves, Floribert Bwana Chui, who fifteen years ago, at only twenty-six years old, was killed in Goma for having blocked the passage of spoiled foodstuffs that would have been harmful for people’s health. He could easily have turned a blind eye; nobody would have found out, and he might even have gotten ahead as a result. But, since he was a Christian, he prayed. He thought of others and he chose to be honest.
That is what it means to keep your hands clean, for hands that traffic in easy money get stained with blood. If someone offers you a bribe, or promises you favours and lots of money, do not fall into the trap. Do not be deceived; do not be sucked into the swamp of evil. Do not be overcome by evil! Do not trust shady financial schemes that plunge you into the darkness. To be honest is to shine like the day; it is to radiate the light of God. It is to live the beatitude of justice: overcome evil with good!
Fourth finger: forgiveness
Now we have reached the fourth finger, the ring finger is also the weakest finger, the one that is the hardest for us to raise. It reminds us that the goals that bring us the greatest fulfilment in life, above all love, involve weakness, weariness and hardship. These have to be accepted, confronted with patience and trust, without letting ourselves get weighed down by pettiness, as, for example, when the beautiful symbolism of a dowry is reduced purely to a financial arrangement. In our frailty and in our moments of crisis, what is the power that makes us go forward? Forgiveness. Because forgiving means being able to start over. To forgive does not mean forgetting the past; it means refusing to repeat it. To forgive is to change the course of history. It is to raise up those who have fallen. It is to accept the idea that no one is perfect and that everyone, not just myself, has the right to make a new start.
Dear friends, to create a new future we need to give and receive forgiveness. That is what Christians do: they do not merely love those who love them, but they choose to halt the spiral of personal and tribal vendettas with forgiveness. I think, for example, of Blessed Isidore Bakanja, your brother who was brutally tortured because he refused to conceal his piety and proposed Christianity to other young people. He never yielded to feelings of hatred and, as he gave up his life, he forgave his torturer. Those who forgive bring Jesus even to places where he is not welcomed; they bring love to places where love is rejected. Those who forgive build the future. But how do we become capable of forgiveness? By first allowing ourselves to be forgiven by God. Every time we confess our sins, we receive in our hearts the power that changes history. God always forgives us, always and freely! And we are then told, as the Gospel says: to “go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37). Go forth without resentment, without venom, without hatred.
Last and smallest finger
You may be tempted to say: But I am so little, and whatever good I can do is but a drop in the ocean. But it is precisely littleness, our decision to become little, that attracts God. The key here is service. Those who serve make themselves little. Like a tiny seed, they seem to be swallowed up in the earth, and yet they bring forth fruit. Jesus tells us that service is the force that transforms the world. So the little question that you can tie on this finger each day is: What can I do for others? In other words, how can I serve the Church, my community, my country? Olivier, you told us that, in some isolated regions, you, the catechists, daily serve the faith communities and that, in the Church, this should be “everyone’s business”.
I would like to thank you, dear catechists: for so many communities, you are as vital as water; always help them to grow by the integrity of your prayer and your service. To serve is not to sit idly by; it is to get up and go. Many get up and go because they want to pursue their own interests. Do not be afraid, yourselves, to pursue goodness, to invest in goodness and to proclaim the Gospel, preparing yourselves enthusiastically and suitably, and initiating long-term projects. And do not be afraid to make your voices heard, because in your hands is not only the future, but the present as well. Be at the centre of the present moment!
Dear friends, young people and catechists, I thank you for what you do and for who you are. Thank you for your enthusiasm, your light and your hope! Now I would like to tell you one last thing: never grow discouraged! Jesus believes in you and he will never leave you stranded. Hold fast to the joy that you feel today; never let it fade. As Floribert told his friends when they were feeling low: “Take the Gospel and read it. It will console you; it will give you joy”. All of you, together, leave behind the pessimism that paralyzes. The Democratic Republic of the Congo expects from your hands a different future, for that future is in your hands. May your country once more become, thanks to you, a garden of fraternity, the heart of peace and freedom in Africa! Thank you!
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