APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO MADAGASCAR
Saturday, 7 September 2019 Vigil with the Young: Address of His Holiness
Thank you, Rova Sitraka and Vavy Elyssa, for sharing with each of us the process of seeking, with its hopes and challenges, that brought you here today. How good it is to meet two young people with a living faith, a faith on the move!
Jesus always leaves our hearts restless; he shows us the way and gets us moving. Jesus’ disciples, if they wish to grow in friendship, must not keep still, complaining or looking inward. They need to be on the move, acting, committed, certain that the Lord is supporting and accompanying them.
That is why I like to think of every young person as a seeker. Do you remember the first question Jesus put to his disciples on the banks of the river Jordan? The first question was: “What do you seek?” (Jn 1:38). The Lord knows that we are looking for the “happiness for which we were created” and which “the world will not be able to take from us” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 1; 177). Each person shows it differently, but deep down all of you are looking for the happiness that no one will be able to take from us (cf. ibid., 177).
You told us, Rova, that in your heart you had long wanted to visit prisoners. You began by helping a priest in his ministry, and little by little you became more and more involved, to the point where this became your personal mission. You realized that your life is a mission. This search, born of faith, helps make the world in which we live a better place, more in accord with the Gospel. What you did for others also transformed you; it changed your way of seeing and judging people. It made you a fairer and more sensitive person.
Rova, in your mission, you learned to stop labelling people and instead to call them by name, as the Lord does with us. He does not call us by our sins, our errors, our faults, our limits, but by our name; each of us is precious in his eyes.
Rova, you learned to see the distinctiveness of each person, but also the history hidden behind each face. You abandoned the quick and easy criticism that always paralyzes us, and you learned something that, for many people, takes years to discover. You realized that a good number of those in prison were there not because they were bad, but because they had made bad choices. They took the wrong path and they realize it, but now they long to make a fresh start.
Jesus is with you
This reminds us of one of the most beautiful gifts that our friendship with Jesus can offer us: “He is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again” (Christus Vivit, 2), and he entrusts you with a mission. Today he asks all of us to discover and to celebrate that gift.
We all know, also from personal experience, that people can “go astray” and run after enticing illusions that promise what seems to be quick, easy and instantaneous joy, but that end up leaving our hearts, our dreams and our soul stranded along the way. Be careful about those who promise easy roads and who then abandon you halfway.
About becoming bitter… Perhaps it is not the case, but there is a risk that you can start thinking: “That’s the way things are… nothing will change and no one can alter a single thing”. Especially when you lack the bare necessities to make it from day to day or to pursue your studies, or when you realize that without a job, stability and social injustice, your future is blocked… and are then tempted to give up. Be careful when faced with this bitterness! Be careful!
The Lord is the first to tell you no! This is not the way to go. He is alive and he also wants you to be alive. He wants you to share all your gifts and charisms, all your dreams and your talents (cf. ibid., 1)
The Lord trusts in you
Through you, the future is coming to Madagascar and to the Church. The Lord is the first to trust in you, but he also asks you to trust in yourselves, to trust in your own skills and abilities, which are many. He asks you to encourage one another and join him in writing the most beautiful page of your lives, rejecting apathy and, like Rova, offering a Christian answer to the many problems that you face.
The Lord is not looking for lone adventurers. He gives us a mission, yes, but he does not send us out alone to the front lines.
Vavy Elyssa made this point very well. It is impossible to be a missionary disciple all by ourselves. We need others in order to experience and share the love and the trust that the Lord has shown us. A personal encounter with Jesus is essential, not simply as individuals but also in community.
In community, that is, together, we can learn how to recognize little everyday miracles, like all those things that give us a glimpse of how beautiful it is to follow and love Jesus. We are one great family, and so we can learn that we have a Mother: the patroness of Madagascar, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have always been struck by the determination with which the young Mary said “yes” – she was young like you. The determination with which she said “yes” – she was young like you.
Our Mother looks at this great assembly of young people who love her and seek her in the silence of their hearts, despite the noise of the world and the chatter and distractions of the journey. They pray to her that their hope will never be extinguished (cf. Christus Vivit, 44-48).
To Mary I entrust the lives of each of you, and those of your families and your friends. May you never lack the light of hope, and may Madagascar be increasingly the land the Lord has dreamt of. May Our Lady accompany you and protect you always.
And, please, do not forget to pray for me.