Francis began again today with his Wednesday general audiences, dedicating his address today to a review of World Youth Day, held in Brazil in July.
Considering his experience on the continent “where the majority of the world’s Catholics live,” the Holy Father chose three words to summarize World Youth Day: welcome, celebration and mission.
“Pilgrimage always involves some discomforts, but the welcome we receive helps us to overcome them and, instead, to transform them into an opportunity for knowledge and friendship,” he said. “Bonds are created that remain, especially in prayer. Also, in this way the Church grows throughout the world, as a network of true friendship in Jesus Christ, a network that, when it ‘captures’ you, liberates you”.
To explain the second word – celebration – Francis commented that this is always typical of World Youth Day since “when a city is full of young men and women, walking the streets carrying flags from all over the world, greeting each other, embracing each other, this is a real celebration. It is a sign for everyone, not only for believers”. But on this occasion there is also “the greatest celebration of all, which is the celebration of faith, when together we praise the Lord, we sing, we listen to the Word of God … all this is the culmination of World Youth Day, the true aim of the pilgrimage, and we live this in a special way in the great Saturday evening Vigil and the final Mass. This is the great celebration, the celebration of faith and brotherhood, which begins in this world and is without end”.
Mission is a key characteristic of this World Youth Day, the theme of which was “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Pope Francis emphasised that this is “Christ’s mandate to his disciples: ‘Go’, come out of yourselves … to bring the light and the love of the Gospel to all, to the every extremes of existence”. And it is precisely this, Jesus’ mandate, which I entrusted to the young people who filled the beach of Copacabana as far as the eye could see. A symbolic place, the ocean shore, that recalls the shore of the Lake of Galilee. Yes, as also today the Lord repeats, ‘Go’, and adds, ‘I am with you, every day’. … Even a boy, a girl, who in the eyes of the world is of little or no account, is in the eyes of God an apostle of His kingdom, a hope for God”.
“Do you want to be a hope for God, hope for the Church?” the Holy Father asked, addressing the young people present, recalling the multitudes of their peers who in Rio de Janeiro encountered the Risen Christ and are “filled with His love in their everyday lives, who live and communicate it. They do not end up in the newspapers, because they do not commit acts of violence; they do not provoke scandals, and so they do not make the news. But, if they remain united with Jesus, they build his Kingdom, they build fraternity, sharing, they carry out merciful works, and they are a potent force for making the world a more just and beautiful place, for transforming it!”
“The experience of World Youth Day”, he concluded, “reminds us of the true great news of history, the Good News, even if it does not appear in the newspapers or on television: we are loved by God, Who is our Father and Who sent his Son Jesus to be near to every one of us and to save us. Welcome, celebration, mission: may these words be not only a memory of what took place in Rio; but also the spirit of our lives and our communities”.