MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE AND CATECHISTS
Martyrs’ Stadium (Kinshasa)Wednesday, 2 February 2023
Thank you for your show of affection, your dancing and your testimonies! I am delighted to meet you face to face.Dear friends, God has placed the gift of life, the future of society and the future of this great country in those hands of yours. Dear brother, dear sister, do your hands not seem small and frail, empty and unsuited to so great a task? Let me tell you something: your hands all look alike, but none of them is exactly the same. No one has hands just like yours, and that is a sign that you are a unique, unrepeatable and incomparable treasure. No one in history can replace you. So ask yourself, what are my hands for?...
Notice how you can squeeze your hand, clo]sing it to make a fist. Or you can open it, to offer it to God and to others.[...] Young people, you who dream of a different future: from your hands, tomorrow can be born; from your hands, peace.
I would like to suggest some “ingredients for the future”: five of them, each corresponding to a finger on your hand.
The thumb, the finger closest to our heart, symbolizes prayer, which is the driving force in our life.
Prayer is the primary ingredient, the basic ingredient for the future, because by ourselves we cannot go very far.
...Think of a tree, if we take away its roots. Even if that tree is large and robust, it cannot remain standing on its own. This is why we need to sink our roots in prayer and in listening to the word of God. Prayer is what allows us to grow deeply, day by day, to bear fruit, and to turn the tainted air we breathe into life-giving oxygen.
Prayer is “water for the soul”: it is hidden, unseen, yet it gives life. Those who pray grow inwardly; they are able to lift their gaze on high and to remember that we are made for heaven.
Dear brother, dear sister, we need prayer, a living prayer. Do not speak to Jesus like some far-off being who inspires awe and fear, but rather as your best friend, someone who has given his life for you. Jesus knows you Even if that tree is large and robust, it cannot remain standing on its own. This is why we need to sink our roots in prayer and in listening to the word of God. Prayer is what allows us to grow deeply, day by day, to bear fruit, and to turn the tainted air we breathe into life-giving oxygen., he believes in you and he loves you, always. When you contemplate him hanging on the cross for your salvation, you will come to see how precious you are to him. You can entrust to him your crosses, your fears, your anxieties, casting them upon his cross. He will embrace them all.
And do not forget to contemplate his face, the face of a God who is young, alive and risen! Yes, Jesus has triumphed over evil; he made of his cross the bridge to the resurrection. So, raise your hands to him daily, praise him and bless him. Tell him the hopes of your heart, share with him the deepest secrets of your life: the person you love, the hurts you carry within, the dreams that you hold in your heart. Tell him about your neighbours, your teachers, your friends and colleagues; tell him about your country. God loves this kind of living, concrete and heartfelt prayer. It allows him to intervene, to enter into your daily life in a special way, to come with his “power of peace”. That power has a name. Do you know who it is? It is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Giver of life. The Holy Spirit is the driving force of peace, the true power of peace. That is why prayer is the most powerful weapon there is. It brings you the consolation and hope that come from God. It always opens up new possibilities and helps you overcome all your fears. Yes, prayer conquers fear and enables us to take our future into our hands. Do you believe this? Do you want to make prayer your secret, as refreshing water for the soul, as the one weapon you carry, as a travelling companion on each day’s journey?
The second finger, the forefinger. We use our index finger to point things out to others. Others, the community: this is the second ingredient. Dear friends, do not ruin your youth by becoming isolated and closed in on yourselves. Think about this often and you will find happiness, because community is the way to make us feel good about ourselves and to be faithful to our true calling.
... Beware of the temptation to point a finger at someone, to exclude another person because he or she is different; beware of regionalism, tribalism, or anything that makes you feel secure in your own group, but at the same time is unconcerned with the life of the community.
... David, you mentioned that young people want to be connected to others, but that social media often confuses you. It is true, virtual reality is not enough, we cannot be content just interfacing with people who are far away and sometimes not even real. Life is more than just tapping a screen with a finger. It is sad to see young people spending hours staring at a phone; then, if you look at their faces, you see that they are not smiling, that they look weary and bored.
Talking, listening to each other is essential: on the screen, everyone scrolls down for what they find interesting. So try to spend time together and experience the beauty of letting others amaze you with their stories and their experiences.
Let us now try to feel very concretely what it means to build community. Just for a few moments, hold hands with whoever is beside you. Imagine yourselves as one Church, a single people. Realize that your own welfare depends on the welfare of others, which is multiplied by the whole. Have a sense of what it means to be protected by your brother and sister, by someone who accepts you as you are and is concerned about you. And know that you are responsible for others, as a vital part of a great fraternal network in which everyone supports everyone else, and that you are indispensable. Yes, you are indispensable and responsible for your Church and your country. You are part of a greater history, one that calls you to take an active role as a builder of communion, a champion of fraternity, an indomitable dreamer of a more united world.
You are not alone in this adventure: the whole Church, throughout the world, is cheering for you. Is it a difficult challenge? Yes, but you can rise to it. You also have some friends in the stands who are encouraging you towards these goals.
I think, for example, of Blessed Isidore Bakanja, of Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite, and of Saint Kizito and his companions. They were witnesses of the faith, martyrs who never succumbed to the logic of violence, but proclaimed by their lives the power of love and forgiveness. Their names, written in heaven.
To be continued