“It is worth following the example Jesus Christ gives us–an example of commitment, of service, of selfless love, of the struggle for justice and truth.”
This is the message from Pope Francis this morning to members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who had just concluded their plenary session; but it is a message for all of us, as well. The Commission had focused in its sessions on the millions of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean “who live in conditions of ‘educational emergency’ and for whom it is necessary to pose the fundamental question of the ‘traditio’ of faith and how the Church wishes to imitate Jesus in His approach to the young”.
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“The Holy Mother Church,” said Pope Francis,
“…is convinced that the best teacher for the young is Jesus Christ. She wishes to instill in them these same sentiments, showing them how beautiful it is to live as He did, banishing selfishness and allowing oneself to be drawn by the beauty of goodness. He who truly knows Jesus does not stay on the couch, but rather takes on His style of life, becoming a missionary disciple of His Gospel, bearing enthusiastic witness to faith, and sparing no sacrifice.”
Referring to Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man, Pope Francis emphasized three aspects:
1. WELCOME. A gesture of welcome was Jesus’ first gesture, and it should be ours, preceding every form of instruction or apostolic mission. “Be close to the young,” said Pope Francis,
“…in every area of life: in school, family, work. … Many young people experience serious problems. They face difficulties in school, unemployment, loneliness, the bitterness of disunited families. These are difficult moments, in which they experience frustration and helplessness; they become vulnerable to drug abuse, sex without love, violence … we must not abandon the young, or leave them at the roadside; they have a great need to feel valued in their dignity, surrounded by affection, and understood.”
“…without condemning; he was without prejudice, he did not speak about the usual things. In the same way, the young want to feel at home in Church. Not only must the Church open her doors to them; she must actively seek them.”
3. INVITATION. Jesus invited the youth to follow Him; and Pope Francis emphasized the need for young people to hear this invitation. “They must hear that Christ is not a character in a novel,” he said,
“…but a living person, who wants to share their irrepressible desire for life, commitment, and dedication. If we content ourselves with offering them mere human comfort, we let them down. It is important to offer them the best we have: Jesus Christ, His Gospel, and with Him, a new horizon, which enables them to face life with coherence, honesty and high-mindedness.
They see the evils of the world and do not keep quiet, they place their finger on the wound and ask for a better world, admitting no substitutes. They want to be in control of their present and builders of a future in which there is no place for lies, corruption and the lack of solidarity. … The Church in Latin America must not squander the treasure of youth.”
The young are waiting for us, the Pope said. We must not let them down.